Trond Vadset Veibust: “We are very well positioned for the future”

With no previous aquaculture experience, but with a broad, diverse and international background, Salmon Evolution's new CFO is ready for the next stage of the company.
Trond Vadset Veibust is the new CFO of Salmon Evolution. Photo: Salmon Evolution.
Trond Vadset Veibust is the new CFO of Salmon Evolution. Photo: Salmon Evolution.

"At Salmon Evolution, we do not only raise salmon. We raise a new standard of salmon," the company states on its website. This different way of doing things is a constant in a company that after the departure of Håkon André Berg in 2022 appointed its then CFO, Trond Håkon Schaug-Pettersen, as the new CEO. For several months he held both his new and his old position until finally, Trond Vadset Veibust arrived to take over.

The new CFO started his new position this April. As his predecessor told WeAreAquaculture shortly thereafter in his TalentView, he was eagerly awaited. "I've been working in two roles, so I'm very glad to have our new CFO on board. He's a great guy and has already proven to be a solid addition to the management team," Schaug-Pettersen said.

International expansion, a vital part

At the end of 2022, Salmon Evolution demonstrated its proof of concept by fulfilling the first part of its strategy: to succeed in Norway before succeeding in foreign markets. Operating on a global scale has always been the company's goal, but they wanted to start in Norway first because that is where they have the full value chain and infrastructure with suppliers, and access to people's competence. By the end of this year, they will be in their tenth generation and will have reached steady-state production from Phase 1.

"The international expansion is a vital part of the Salmon Evolution, but we've always said that we will scale internationally based on a successful operation in Norway," confirms Trond Vadset Veibust. The company already has a project well underway in South Korea – its first step in that international expansion plan – and has set up a structure in North America, where they are actively working on site selection and initial due diligence.

After announcing a green debt financing package related to both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Indre Harøy in late March, they completed a private placement at the end of April in which they raised NOK 525 million (EUR 45.6 million / USD 50 million at the exchange rate at the time) in new equity. "I think based on that we can state that we are well positioned for the future in Salmon Evolution," Trond Vadset Veibust says.

"Now, the primary focus we have is to achieve steady state production volumes," he continues. "Of course, as well as ensuring that we follow the growth plans we have in South Korea and in North America. So, kind of summarised it, we are very well positioned for the future."

A background issue

If Salmon Evolution is taking its first steps in terms of financial results, its new CFO is taking his first steps in the aquaculture industry. Although, as mentioned, he has no previous work experience in the industry, Trond Vadset Veibust grew up in Ålesund and trained in Bergen, two important centers of the Norwegian and international seafood industry. "I haven't worked directly in an aquaculture company but when you live up here, you are exposed to it anyway."

When back in January, months before he joined the company, he was announced as the new CFO, his predecessor in the position and current CEO said of him: "Trond has unique operational and international experience coupled with a strong financial skill set which I am confident that Salmon Evolution will benefit greatly from."

Trond Vadset Veibust comes from a furniture manufacturer with global distribution and operations with more than 3,000 employees, 10 factories in 5 countries and 26 offices. "I was responsible for overseas operations, digitalization and strategic project, and I think that background, given the international ambitions we have in Salmon Evolution, is beneficial for the company and that will be one of my key contributions to the business going forward," he tells WeAreAquaculture.

"I have a relatively broad and diverse background and quite an international one," he continues. "This will be very beneficial for Salmon Evolution in the phase the company is now entering, from being a large construction project to a fully operational salmon farmer." This background, which at first glance might appear to be a handicap, is actually quite the opposite. "I think ultimately the diverse and international background I have is beneficial for the company I've joined," he repeats with complete sincerity.

Significant potential in the land-based segment

As said at the begining, Salmon Evolution is a company that does things differently, starting with its production method. They are the first to use a hybrid continuous flow system (HFS) to raise salmon on land. Their technology, very different from a typical RAS facility, does not reuse or recirculate as much water, allowing them to operate with less risk.

"I'm very excited to join this company," Trond tells us. "I believe the company has significant potential and it is also very exciting to work for the front-runner in the land-based segment in salmon farming." As an example, the new CFO tells us an anecdote that occurred during the Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, a few days after his arrival at the company.

"We had this sushi lunch event. We served some sashimi. And we thought, 'Yeah, some people will probably come'. And then, I don't know, we would say between 300 and 400 people came over the two days. It far exceeded the expectations we had, to put it mildly." The Expo suddenly became very busy for all the team.

"But the good thing is that the fish…" he makes a pause and continues, "when you have a product, you always wonder what the reactions from the consumers are. But we got very good feedback on the fish, the quality, and all." All in all, no matter if it is furniture or salmon, if there is a good product behind it and a professional with proven experience who believes in what the company is doing, success seems assured.

About Salmon Evolution

Salmon Evolution is a Norwegian salmon farming company whose main objective is to expand the potential of the ocean by transferring the best conditions offered by the sea to land-based fish farming through its hybrid continuous flow system (HFS) technology. This ensures a truly sustainable production process with controlled and optimal growth conditions and limited operational and biological risk. It aims to reach a production capacity of 100,000 tons of HOG by 2032. Salmon Evolution ASA is listed on Oslo Børs under the ticker SALME.

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