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The Yield Lab Asia Pacific Global Aquaculture Challenge - Salmon Sustentable

This series provides insights into the global array of companies participating in this challenge as innovators or sponsors.

The 9th of this Spotlight Series focuses on Salmon Sustentable, one of sponsors of this program. In the coming weeks leading to the grand Finale on the 7th of October, we will profile the other innovations and sponsors of this challenge.

Salmon Sustentable aims to put Chilean aquaculture on the map.

(Puerto Montt, Chile) Chile’s salmon sector has grown from a niche frontier business in the 1970s to the biggest employer in the regions that make up the southernmost parts of Chile.

Salmon has also been the country’s fastest growing major industry of the past 50 years, rivaling Norway to become the world’s top farmer with exports surpassing $4.5 billion every year.

Salmon Sustentable, an offshoot of public investment agency Corfo, has been at the forefront of interactions between the public sector and the many private companies that now make up one of the most mature and sophisticated aquaculture industries in the world. It hasn’t always been that way. The Chilean salmon industry’s path to become a multi-billion dollar industry has been rocky, with lots of setbacks.

Gonzalo Romero, Head of Salmon Sustentable during a speech at Universidad de los Lagos
“We want to avoid that industry growth is disjointed,” said Gonzalo Romero, head of the Salmon Sustentable program. “The industry has to take care of this area, you don’t want to create inconvenience because of our projects.”

Disjointed can be the sudden growth of populations in new areas of Patagonia because of salmon farming, leaving public hospitals and schools straining under new pressure. Or it can be the sudden impact of a devastating salmon disease such as infectious salmon anemia (ISA), which ravaged the industry back in 2007.

Salmon Sustentable is a public agency that engages with private companies to make improvements throughout the industry, Romero said. That can involve encouraging private companies to figure out new vaccines or treatments for salmonid rickettsial syndrome (SRS), which forces Chilean companies to treat many of its fish with antibiotics. Or it can mean working on Salmon Sustentable’s mentorship program this year, which pairs start-up entrepreneurs with the major salmon farmers.

Monitoring salmon farming operations, Chile

“We generally set up virtuous relationships between companies,” Romero said. “A lot of the companies end up hiring these start-ups.”

Finding solutions for Chile’s salmon farmers means looking beyond the country’s borders as much as looking for solutions from within, Romero said. That’s why the Chilean government office was particularly interested to get involved in The Yield Lab Asia Pacific’s Global Aquaculture Challenge as a sponsor.

Chile is clear about its limitations and the country hasn’t advanced as much as Norway’s highly developed salmon sectors, Romero said. The national industry often implements innovation from Norway, where companies spent a high level of their profits on research and development. A growing number of Norwegian industry service providers are now present in Chile, including companies such as AKVA Group and Scale AQ which provide cages and hatchery technology.

Gonzalo Romero, Rodrigo Salas and members from the Magallanes salmon farmers association

The challenge was interesting for Corfo to take a glimpse at what other solutions for aquaculture other start-ups were innovating in in the rest of the world. The winner of the Salmon Sustentable prize will get mentorship and high level access to Chile’s biggest salmon farmers.

Salmon Sustentable is particularly interested in solutions coming from the broader universe of the agriculture industry as it embarks on a program next year to become more self-sufficient in aquaculture feed, Romero said. Chile is a major importer of plant protein for the fish from Argentina and Brazil. Fish oil is imported from Peru. The bill was more than $1.2 billion last year, he said.

Salmon Sustentable is using its public private partnership model to incentivize investments in Chile’s agriculture sector to make more of the feed domestically sourced. It has set the goal of getting more than one million tons of proteins and fatty acids grown on national soil, that were previously imported.

“This is my main task,” Romero said. “Aquaculture and agriculture are going to come together.”

13 Sep 2021.

Matt Craze and Oriana Aguillon, Spheric Research.



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