By Meg MacKay
Photos by: Mikaila Bickford
Kirk Havercroft is the CEO of Sustainable Blue, a one-of-a-kind land-based salmon farm in Centre Burlington, Nova Scotia. Kirk is from the UK, and graduated from university in 1994, specializing in finance and accounting. While he was job searching, he came across Sustainable Blue founder and engineer Dr. Jeremy Lee.
“I was just applying for an ordinary job, to start paying back my student loan,” said Kirk, “and I was just, you know, instantly captivated by such a compelling story, and also with this guy that was just very capable of driving the research that was necessary for this process.”
Jeremy had been working to develop water treatment systems for public aquariums all over the world. Yet, his real passion was in aquaculture. At the time, open-net pen salmon farming was rapidly expanding in the UK, but Jeremy wanted to do something different.
He understood the impacts that farms open to the natural marine environment could have, and he had been developing technology for a closed loop system for years.
Kirk has been working for the company now for 25 years and has been excited about Jeremy’s technological innovation from the start. His work started as an accountant in the UK, and took him overseas to Nova Scotia, to become CEO of a growing company. “It’s such a compelling story to be a part of.” He is now in charge of operations, marketing, and partnership development.
The world of salmon can be overwhelming for consumers, as there are so many choices. So why is Sustainable Blue unique to the salmon aquaculture world? Kirk said “Sustainable Blue is looking at a really holistic solution to fully responsible aquaculture.”
As a land-based salmon farm, Sustainable Blue can eliminate any risk to wild Atlantic salmon populations. With open-net pen aquaculture, there is a risk that domesticated salmon can escape into the marine environment and spread disease, or mix with wild salmon. However, by holding their salmon on land, this risk doesn’t exist. “We just don’t want to interfere with the wild fish at all; we don’t want to have an impact on them.”
They also have a zero-waste system in place, which is what makes them so unique in the world of land-based salmon farming. With the technology that Lee developed, they are able to separate their solid waste for use in a biodigester to produce electricity.
They also recover and recirculate all of the water in their tanks. “There’s nowhere else in the world that you can find an aquaculture technology that leaves no waste footprint on the environment.”
Located right off the Bay of Fundy, Sustainable Blue made their move to Nova Scotia in 2005. Since then, they have been slowly building, testing, and expanding. They have a total of 16 full time staff, now working in four buildings, including a freshwater hatchery and saltwater tanks for juvenile and adult salmon. “It’s just the developmental nature of the project, which has been: let’s start small, with a pilot plant and then let’s take all of the best things we’ve learned here and apply them to a different building, just to see if our new concepts really work.”
Soon, there will be 20 full time staff, and six buildings. And Kirk says they are ready to look at expanding their business in North America. “We’ve been careful to not expand too quickly before the tech is completely proven,” said Kirk, “now, the timing to grow is right.”
Their vision is to grow their business of sustainable land-based aquaculture, but Kirk doesn’t love the word sustainable. “I’d rather talk about what responsible means, because that to me, is the conversation we need to be having.” For Kirk, their responsibility as a business is to be sustainable, mindful of the preservation of resources, but also to look for best-practice aquaculture, and innovative technology, like their zero-waste system.
Sustainable Blue salmon helps to fill a growing demand for sustainable salmon, so that consumers can source their seafood responsibly, and fishers can continue their tradition. “We want to allow commercial fishermen to fish responsibly, in a way in which our operation has not impacted their livelihood whatsoever,” said Kirk, “Our mission has always been: leave the oceans fully to themselves.”
You can find Sustainable Blue Salmon at our online shop HERE! or at the Warehouse Market located on 2867 Isleville street, Halifax. You can also find Sustainable Blue salmon at the following locations in the Maritimes: Local Source Market; Evan’s Seafood; Stirling Farm Market; Norbert’s Fine Foods, Lunenburg, Truro, New Glasgow, and Wolfville Farmer’s Markets; Hunts Point Market and Café; Dory Mates; Rose Bay General Store, The Ploughman’s Lunch; Eos Natural Foods; Rising Sun Natural Foods; Dolma Food (Moncton); Aura Whole Foods (Fredericton); Sequoia Natural Foods (Fredericton).