Farming salmon in the desert? Ocean Harvest seeks $180m funding

    Abu Dhabi-based company seeks "strategic investors" in its Series A funding round, for proposed RAS salmon facilities in the United Arab Emirates.

    Industrial-scale aquaculture in the United Arab Emirates may soon become a reality, with the news that the Ocean Harvest is about to open its Series A funding round.

    The Abu Dhabi-based company has already raised seed funding of $2.1 million, and has its core team in place, with the recent hire of new CEO Jawad Jamil. Last year it brought on board former Atlantic Sapphire specialist Bruno Sardenberg as its production director.

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    Now Jamil says Ocean Harvest is set to embark on the first major phase of the project, with a Series A funding round aiming for US $180 million, to fund construction of its 100,000-square-meter land-based salmon farm in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.

    Ocean Harvest’s ambitious plans for desert-based salmon farming

    Earlier this year, Ocean Harvest confirmed it had hired RAS specialists Billund Aquaculture and Suez Water Technologies to build its ambitious pilot facility, aiming to produce 3,500 metric tonnes of Atlantic salmon per year by 2028, with commercial-scale operations at its first hatchery planned as early as 2026.

    However, its ambitions don’t stop there, with plans to ramp up to a production of 6,000 tons within 5 years after the initial phase. Later on the company also intends to expand into neighbouring markets in Saudi Arabia, as well as further east in Asia.

    For its Series A round, Jamil explained that the company is looking for investors willing to commit over the longer term, and who can see the bigger picture.

    “We’re looking for strategic investors, sovereign wealth funds, impact investors [and] infrastructure investors because we need those kinds of shareholders,” the Ocean Harvest CEO said, in an interview with The Circuit. “They are the ones who are not just looking at pure financial returns … getting my 3x, 5x [returns] and getting out. They have the understanding, the patience that is required to understand the intricacies of building such complicated infrastructure. And there’s more at play.” 

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    United Arab Emirates pushes for food security through aquaculture

    In a country which imports 90% of its food, protein security is increasingly recognisd as a priority area. Launching an initiative to support the budding aquaculture sector in the country in 2020, UAE’s minister of climate change and environment Mariam Hareb Almheiri described aquaculture as “a core component of the UAE’s national food security strategy”.

    “The sector promises to be an important source of high-value protein as our population steadily grows, given that the UAE currently imports 70% of its fish annually. It is a good use of our water resources (mainly marine water) and aligns with national aspirations to achieve sustainability in all areas,” she said.

    “The UAE has what it takes to become a regional hub for hi-tech aquaculture, having already established several leading facilities, such as the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre which is currently under expansion,” Almheiri added at the time.

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