Fish will be thriving in the Gobi desert

Master salesmen are said to be able to sell sand in the Sahara. In real life, however, a Danish company has managed to beat this saying by delivering a turnkey project for a salmon farm in the Gobi desert in north-western China near the Mongolian border. Billund Aquakultur Service is the name of the company, who are neighbours of the Danish toy company LEGO. There is not a fish in sight, and the only water there is comes out of the taps. Nonetheless, it is a high-tech company operating in most parts of the world: from Danish eel farms to Russian sturgeon farms.

Minimal water consumption
Not the ones to put on a show, sitting down with our Gmagazine reporter, Executive Chairman Christian Sørensen and CEO Bjarne Hald Olsen pride themselves on their knowledge and commitment.

- We’ve had our share of adventures, and we hope this one has a happy ending as well, says an optimistic Bjarne Hald Olsen, with Christian Sørensen chiming in:

- We are convinced that we have the necessary knowhow and the right concept, although to date, fresh water salmon of this size have only been bred in a recirculation plant as part of testing, Christian Sørensen explains.

Normally, salmon will be released into fiords or seas to grow to maturity. An important advantage of a recirculation plant, which reuses the water, is the fact that it only uses 500 litres of water per kilo of salmon. This is a mere 1 per cent of what was required if the salmon was bred in a conventional counterflow plant. The mud and the polluted water, which cannot be reused in the plant, will be used to water and fertilise the sandy soil.

- It would, however, be an exaggeration to claim that this will transform barren desert to fertile soil, says Christian Sørensen, laughing.

Focus on energy consumption
In terms of sustainability, the Achilles heel of breeding fish in a recirculation plant is the energy consumption – 2.5 kWh is required to produce 1 kg of salmon. According to Christian Sørensen, it is therefore very important, both to the customers and Billund Aquakultur Service, to minimise the energy consumption.

- The low energy consumption is an important reason for us to use Grundfos pumps in all our plants, but it is also essential that Grundfos is a quality brand with a global service network, he says.

1,000 tons of salmon every year
To the Chinese, fish breeding is a step in the direction of becoming self-sufficient with regard to fresh salmon, which are of a higher quality than frozen fish. Once the plant in the Gobi desert is ready in October-November, the first salmon roe will arrive from Norway, and from then on, there will be an annual production of 1,000 tons of salmon in the desert. Originally, the customer, a state-owned water supply company, which pumps water from a 100-metre-deep bore hole, wanted the plant to be bigger, but Billund Aquakultur Service advised against it.

- As this is the first time salmon is being produced in a recirculation plant right until they are ready to ice, we wanted to start up at a smaller scale. However, in five years, the plant will probably have been expanded to produce 10,000 tons of salmon every year, Bjarne Hald Olsen says.

Further reading: Water Treatment