Two international companies have made a $200 million investment in Nebraska with the hopes that their new plant could be a game-changer for farm-raised fish.
Veramaris, based in Blair, Nebraska, is set to have a grand opening event Wednesday.
The plant will produce EPA and DHA omega 3, an important nutrient for salmon and other fish.
Royal DSM, based in the Netherlands, and Evonik, based in Germany, partnered on the project. They launched Veramaris in 2018.
The plant was built here because of the access to corn, said Hugh Welsh, president of DSM North America.
“This is a brave new world, a brave new market in biotechnology for that corn,” he said.
Welsh said the technology originated from NASA research for a program looking to feed astronauts on long-range missions.
The dextrose from the corn will feed algae that’s kept in several five-story tanks.
The proprietary algae strain called Schizochytrium ssp will produce the oil containing omega 3, he said, which is then harvested and shipped to places like Norway, Peru and Scotland where farm salmon are raised.
That oil produced in Nebraska will replace the wild-caught fish that now feed those farm salmon and potentially other fish in the future.
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Welsh said the process has several global benefits. One is to reduce depletion of the wild fish supply.
He said access to those other fish is one of the main barriers to growing the industry.
To show why that is important, the company points to the United Nations’ goal of decreasing overfishing by 2020 as part of its ocean conservation efforts.
Another benefit, the company said, is more omega 3 in those farm-raised salmon. This could help reverse a decline in omega 3 levels of farm-raised salmon.
This means the salmon would be healthier, and healthier to eat, the company said.
This plant is set to produce 1.2 million metric tons of the oil per year. That’s enough to feed 15% of the farm-raised salmon in the world, Welsh said, and enough to replace all the wild caught fish that come from the Mediterranean Sea.
The plant’s waste — the algae — will be turned into feed for agriculture, he said.
The plant will employ 15 people to monitor, harvest and package the oil.
The grand opening ceremony is set to feature the CEOs of the companies involved as well as Gov. Pete Ricketts. The facility was completed in May and is set to ramp up to full production this year.
Welsh, in Nebraska for the grand opening, said he took a stroll through the Old Market and had in-depth discussions with people who are interested in the salmon that will use this product.
“Our diners want this product today,” he said.