AquaBounty pauses Ohio farm construction but still believes in the project

The substantial increase in the cost of completion and ongoing negotiations with Williams County to obtain the Right of Way permit led the U.S. land-based salmon producer to make this decision.
AquaBounty Atlantic Salmon swimming in grow-out tank. Photo: AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.
AquaBounty Atlantic Salmon swimming in grow-out tank. Photo: AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.

After a first step slowing the pace of construction, AquaBounty announced today that finally pauses its Pioneer, Ohio farm construction. The substantial increase in its estimated cost of completion and the delay in securing the Right of Way (ROW) permit from Williams County have led the company to make the decision. The land-based aquaculture salmon producer will now evaluate alternatives, including the possibility of reducing the farm's size or scope. However, the redesign is not a definitive halt. "We believe in this project and its importance to the Company's growth strategy", said AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf.

Substantial increase in the estimated cost

"AquaBounty will pause the construction of its farm in Pioneer, Ohio due to a substantial increase in its estimated cost of completion and the continued negotiations with Williams County to approve the permit needed to utilize the Right of Way requested by the Village of Pioneer," Sylvia Wulf told WeAreAquaculture via email.

In a previous interview last March, AquaBounty's CEO admitted to WeAreAquaculture that the total cost of the farm would be higher than they had originally anticipated. As they announced in the Q4 2022 results presentation, the initial projected cost of USD 320 million would increase to USD 375-395 million. However, at that time, the company still believed that the decision to slow the pace of construction would be enough. It appears this has not been the case.

"We will undertake a detailed review to evaluate a smaller scope or size for the farm, as well as a phased construction effort for the full 10,000 metric ton design. In conjunction with this design review, we will also evaluate additional construction financing solutions," Wulf now told us.

The option to go smaller is not a last-minute decision for the company. In the aforementioned interview, when talking about the possibility of further expansion in North America, AquaBounty CEO already talked about this possibility. "We believe that having those farms at different locations as opposed to one gigantic farm makes more sense because you're closer to the markets and you minimize your risk," she told us then.

Sylvia Wulf, President and Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty. Photo: AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.

"We believe in this project"

Now, the land-based aquaculture company will take time to evaluate the timing and cost of the project size and scope alternatives, but pausing is not stopping. "We've been working closely with the Village of Pioneer on the water and wastewater lines for the Ohio farm and the Village has approved the creation of a public utility, which will own and operate the water and wastewater lines required for the farm's operation," said Wulf in the statement.

Additionally, AquaBounty is also waiting for Williams County to issue the ROW permit. "As we have said from the beginning, we are excited about what our project can contribute to the Village and the County, and we are committed to being good neighbors and supporting the local community," she added.

"We believe in this project and its importance to the Company's growth strategy," continued AquaBounty CEO. "Our focus now is on bringing it to completion in a manner that is prudent for the Company and our shareholders. Our current business continues to grow, and we will continue to supply our customer base with salmon from our Indiana farm, while using that facility to improve our operational practices and to test new technologies in preparation for the Ohio farm start up."

"Progress also continues at our PEI farms to expand the production of non-transgenic eggs and fry and on our R&D work focused on improvements in our Broodstock and the improvements in the overall health and well-being of our fish," concluded Sylvia Wulf. As she told us last March, the company's future plans are for diversification and opportunity, beyond salmon and North America.

About AquaBounty

AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. is a land-based fish farming expert raising Atlantic salmon to supply nearby markets. It claims that its innovative land-based farms, combined with its expertise in genetic engineering, are the answer to the world's growing demand for high-quality seafood. In addition to this large-scale farm under construction in Pioneer, Ohio, the company currently operates another land-based RAS farm in Indiana, USA, and one more in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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