Swiss people are happy to pay for sustainability
A few years ago, Julian Connor, now CEO at Swiss Alpine Fish, saw unused potential to produce sustainable Atlantic salmon deep in the Swiss Alps.
Switzerland is a rich country with stringent environmental standards, and Swiss consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainable and locally produced goods.
Julian Connor teamed up with a circle of investors and struck agreements with a couple of large supermarkets that would take the fish. The first fish were harvested at the start of 2017 from the facility in Lostallo, southern Switzerland. Swiss Alpine Fish will produce 600 tonnes of salmon a year.
New RAS design from Denmark
Julian Connor chose a new recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) design with just one tank from Danish company Krüger A/S, in a turnkey solution that also involved deliveries from another Danish company, Gråkjær A/S.
RAS is a well-known technology that can resolve most of the environmental problems normally associated with fish farming. However, RAS facilities are more expensive to build and operate, and are mainly used for hatchlings, which are later moved to other types of facilities as they grow.
The new Danish design, known as RAS2020, is extremely compact and has just one large tank structure, which can be divided into smaller spaces. The design makes for an RAS solution that is cheaper to build and operate, and which further minimises the environmental impact. It also makes it financially viable to raise salmon, for example, to full size.
“More than 95 per cent of the water is filtered and recirculated. Almost nothing is discharged to the local aquatic environment,” says Julian Connor, CEO at Swiss Alpine Fish.
Project financing made the project possible
The project has a strong circle of investors, who injected more than half the overall project costs totalling EUR 15 million. Nevertheless, the project still had problems raising the loan capital, since Swiss banks are generally reluctant to assume risk on start-up projects.
Fortunately, with EKF behind them, the Danish exporters were also able to offer a financial solution for the project. EKF is willing to assume risk in foreign start-up projects when these projects are buying equipment from Denmark. In this case, EKF issued a Project Financing Guarantee to cover more than half of a EUR 7 million loan from Crédit Suisse.