Construction Begins on Country’s Largest Land-Based Aquaculture Facility

Construction has begun on what will become the largest land-based aquaculture facility in Iceland, Vísir reports. The company, Landseldi ehf. (also known in English as Deep Atlantic Salmon Project) bases its operations in Þorlákshöfn, South Iceland and eventually plans to raise 40,000 tons of salmon annually. It is also committed to utilizing all of the farm’s biproducts, or sludge, as a rich, “biologically perfect” fertilizer.

Founded in 2017 by entrepreneurs with experience in aquaculture, the construction industry, geothermal energy, and finance, Landeldi, ehf. says its mission is no less than to “inspire the global transition to fully sustainable food production, use terraforming aquaculture to rear an abundance of salmon on land, fertilize the earth, and regenerate the climate.” While fish farming in sea pens has been criticised for its environmental impact, fish farming in tanks on land eliminates many problems such as the possibility of farmed salmon mixing with wild fish and pollution from waste gathering on the ocean floor. Such operations require more energy, but Landeldi claims that Iceland’s geothermal energy can keep the production carbon-neutral and that 100% of the water used in its facility is renewable and sourced from boreholes in its ownership.

Will bring 170 new jobs to booming Þorlákshöfn

Landeldi’s current expansion is part of a three-phase plan. As the company’s website explains, their “production quantity will double every two years. Starting at 5,000 tons in 2022 it will have grown to at least 20,000 tons by 2027.”

The current phase will will create 170 new jobs in the town, which has itself seen enormous expansion in recent years, not least due to a local boom in land-based fish farming. When Landeldi began its first construction phase in 2021, three other companies were developing land-based aquaculture facilities there as well.

“The main construction will be of some 150 to 160 tanks, which will be carried out for a cost of around ISK 70 billion [$4.85 million; €4.59 million] over the next 10 years,” says Rúnar Þór Þórarinsson, Landeldi’s head of sustainability and development. “It’s a really big project and we’re well underway. We’ve had a hatchery at Öxnalækur [a land-based aquaculture farm not far from Þorlákshöfn], where we completely renovated the facilities, and which we bought as soon as the environmental assessment was done. We’ve got salmon in seawater tanks in Þorlákshöfn—big tanks, 15-20 m [49-65 ft]—and we’re building 25 and 30-meter [82 and 98-ft] tanks this year.”

‘The environmental friendliness of land-based aquaculture is close to our hearts’

Þorlákshöfn is particularly well-situated for land-based aquaculture, says Rúnar Þór. “The conditions are unique there because we’ve got the sea, which Iceland itself filters for us. The strata are quite permeable, alternating between sand and [porous] rock, [which started out as lava] in volcanic eruptions 7,000 – 20,000 years ago. And the sea cleans out parasites, plastic particles, and other things that can harm the fish.” (See a more detailed description of this process on the Landeldi website, in English, here.)

Landeldi is also particularly proud of the unique system it has developed to utilize all of its facilities’ biowaste.

“The environmental friendliness of land-based aquaculture is close to our hearts,” says Rúnar Þór. “This is in our DNA as a company. We intend to collect the fish manure and work with other fish farms to utilize it for the good of the land and support agriculture with fertilizer, biochar, and compost production by any means necessary.”

New Report Examines Food Self-Sufficiency in Five Nordic Island Societies

Iceland fishing quota reform

A new report examining the ways in which “greater food self-sufficiency can contribute to increased sustainability and resilience in the food systems of five Nordic island societies” finds that Iceland has a high degree of food self-sufficiency, thanks in large part to its “substantial fish and seafood production.” Even so, there remains work to be done to achieve even greater self-sufficiency, and food security remains the country’s “primary focus.”

The report, “Food self-sufficiency in five Nordic island societies,” was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Working Group for Circular Economy. In addition to Iceland, it also investigated food self-sufficiency in Bornholm, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland. Researchers explored local strategies for food production and interviewed local experts, compared what challenges and opportunities for food self-sufficiency were perceived by people living in each society, and compiled a list of “good examples” from each place, while also noting that “local food production does not automatically equate to sustainable food production.”

Iceland, like Greenland and the Faroe Islands, is subject to the Arctic climate, shorter growing seasons, and “fewer areas with suitable soil conditions for agricultural production,” notes the report. But none of these factors prevent it from having the second highest degree of self-sufficiency (when measured in energy). This is, in part, because of the “abundance of marine resources” at its disposal, as well as “innovative production methods that use natural resources,” namely “geothermal heating for vegetable production.”

Screenshot of table in “Food self-sufficiency in five Nordic Island Societies,” Nordic Council of Ministers, August 2022

Researchers calculated food self-sufficiency in two ways, the main difference between the two methods being “whether exported food is considered.” Per the report, “The first calculation, degree of self-sufficiency, is defined as the proportion of food that is both produced and consumed in a country or region, and excludes exported food. The second calculation, food self-sufficiency ratio, considers the total food production, including food that may eventually be exported.”

Measured in energy (KJ), Iceland had the second highest degree of self-sufficiency (53%) after the Finnish islands of Åland (59%). Bornholm had the lowest ranking according to this measurement, or 6%, coming in the lowest in this category because such a large share of the food produced on the Danish island is exported. But all of the island societies ranked high “regarding the amount of food (kgs) and the caloric value” of food produced. In Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroes, this is, again, credited to “substantial fish and seafood production.”

When exports are taken into consideration, however, Iceland’s self-sufficiency ratio is the lowest of the five island societies, whether measured in energy or in kilos. The Faroe Islands had the highest self-sufficiency ratio in both measurements: 446% when measured in energy (KJ) and 549% when measured in kilos. While ranking the lowest, Iceland still had a 100% score when the self-sufficiency ratio was measured in energy, and 109% when measured in kilos.

The number of tourists in each country was considered alongside the local populations, although interestingly for Iceland, “tourism was found to have a limited effect on the level of food self-sufficiency” in each society.

Focus remains on food security

Reviewing the food and agricultural strategies employed in each of the island societies, researchers found that Iceland’s primary focus remains on food security; “food self-sufficiency is included but not heavily emphasised” in its policy and production.

All of the societies examined shared many of the same challenges (such as local competition against cheaper, imported foods), vulnerabilities (dependency on imported materials such as fodder and fertiliser to support food production), and barriers (“an available and suitably qualified workforce”). They also shared strengths, such as relatively small populations, “which means that collaboration and creating synergies across food system actors is an achievable reality.”

The report concludes with eleven policy recommendations “to guide future work on food self-sufficiencies and local food systems” in each of the five studied societies. These include: increased access to locally produced food for restaurants, public institutions, and local citizens; the addressing of of consumer behaviour and eating habits; exploring new business models geared toward the local market; the exploration of “possibilities for diversifying the food production,” not least with an eye to “transitioning a share of animal-based food production to plant-based options” and more.

You can read the full report and its findings, in English, here.

Churning Onward

Gunnar Birgisson’s journey as an entrepreneur has seen many unexpected detours. As the CEO of Reykjavik Creamery – an American dairy processing plant located in Newville, Pennsylvania – Gunnar’s story spans both continents and conmen, bringing him from Akureyri to Denmark to California in search of a way into the US dairy industry, where he would eventually carve himself a niche specialising in skyr production using ultra-filtration technology – the natural way to optimise the nutritional value of fermented dairy products.

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Icelandic Government Presents First Comprehensive Food Policy

“Iceland holds unique opportunities in the field of food production but the challenges ahead are also big, not least in the areas of climate issues and public health. Therefore, it’s important to form a clear vision of the future,” stated Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who presented Iceland’s first comprehensive food policy yesterday alongside Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson.

The 10-year policy aims to address public health and food security, as well as competition and value creation within food production in Iceland. It also aims to support development in the industry through innovation and research. It took two years of committee work to create the policy, which also addresses climate goals and sustainability.

“The cornerstone of Iceland’s new food policy is the country’s unique position when it comes to food production,” the Minister of Fisheries stated. “It is undisputed and we should show it off in every respect. Opportunities in Icelandic food production are everywhere. The demand for pure and wholesome products is constantly increasing and we are well-placed to meet that demand. Our goal is to ensure continuous prosperity through increased value creation.”

Read More: Untapped Potential in Vegetable Farming in Iceland

While most of Iceland’s agriculture subsidies go toward sheep and cow farming, the government recently increased its investment in domestic vegetable and fruit cultivation. There has been growing innovation in many kinds of food production in the country in recent years.

With More Icelanders at Home, Chocolate Easter Eggs Sell Out

Icelandic Easter eggs

Icelanders may be sheltering at home, avoiding travel and large family gatherings this Easter, but that hasn’t reduced demand for the country’s beloved chocolate Easter eggs – if anything, it’s only increased it, says Auðjón Guðmundsson, CEO of chocolate company Nói Síríus. Vísir reports that with more Icelanders in the country for the holiday this year, there has been a run on the chocolate egg supply the like of which hasn’t been seen in quite some time.

Indeed, in the lead-up to the holiday, the country’s chocolatiers anticipated that many of their popular páskaegg varieties would sell out this year and encouraged Icelanders to buy their favourite kind early to ensure they weren’t disappointed come Easter Sunday. “We’re working longer and…doing everything we can for Icelanders,” Auðjón told mbl.is last week. “It’s a shame when people don’t get their Easter egg.”

As a matter of fact, Nói Síríus produced more than 800,000 chocolate Easter eggs this year, including several new varieties with different kinds of candy fillings. Even so, several varieties have sold out, leading to the sense that there was a shortage of chocolate eggs this year.

“Neither we nor others were prepared for this situation. It didn’t help that production was a lot more difficult and slower due to the gathering ban,” explained Auðjón. “We tried everything and were pretty pleased with how much we managed to get out in the end. But of course, it’s just wishful thinking that everyone would get their favourite egg – that’s just how it is.”

Easter is usually a popular time for Icelanders to travel outside of the country, something that obviously wasn’t possible this year. Moreover, many Icelanders based abroad have recently returned to the country amidst the COVID-19 crisis. “Without having the exact figures, I would expect that it’s the increased number of Icelanders in the country that played a big part in this,” said Auðjón, referring to the perceived shortage.

The chocolatier also realises what a charmed position he and those in his industry are in right now. It’s difficult to complain about the enormous demand for Easter eggs, he says, at a time when income in so many other industries has evaporated. “We can only be grateful for this. Although, of course, we’d have wanted everyone to get the egg they wanted.”

Seek Energy for 50 Hectare Greenhouse

A huge greenhouse Paradise Farm is planning to build in Ölfus, Southwest Iceland, would need 150 megawatts of electricity for its operations, Vísir reports. Paradise Farm is backed by foreign investors, who hope to construct a 50-hectare greenhouse for growing vegetables and fruit, with an emphasis on export.

Paradise Farms plans to start operations with 10 hectares under glass, eventually expanding to 50 hectares. The 150 megawatts required to power such a greenhouse are equivalent to the capacity of Blanda Power Station in North Iceland.

“People are quite interested,” stated Gunnar Þorgeirsson, chairperson of the Union of Horticultural Farmers and one of the people behind Paradise Farms, when asked about reception of the project among energy companies. “There is quite a lot of energy in the system, it’s just a question of where it can be used,” adding that there are still technical issues that need to be solved in terms of how energy would be transported to the greenhouse and that it would require considerable investment.

Even small greenhouses produce considerable light pollution. Gunnar says Paradise Farms would aim to minimise that with the use of screens above the lights. Otherwise, he says, no pollution would result from the operations.

“In the new stations there is a circulation system so that the same fertiliser water is always used and not put out into nature.” Excess warm water from the greenhouse could be used in on land fish farms, which there is some interest in setting up in the area. Then we need to work on converting the carbon dioxide that comes from Hellisheiði Power Station into carbon that we can use for cultivation and make the power station more environmentally friendly along the way.”