The University of Maine announced last week that the university has accepted a proposal to work with the Dutch company Kingfish Zeeland to build an aquaculture facility in Jonesport, Maine. The company, well-regarded as an industry leader, produces antibiotic-free yellowtail fish. Last fall, the company announced that it had plans to build a $110 million land-based facility, but needed a cooperative partnership to be able to implement the planning stage of the project.
Kingfish Zeeland operates a recirculating aquaculture system in Kats, The Netherlands, and produces over 600 metric tons of yellowtail annually. Kingfish Zeeland is a relatively new company in the business of aquaculture, only founded in 2015, and officially opening its doors in 2018. After finding success, the company had to place restrictions on orders because of international demand.
Although the company only produces a limited stock of yellowtail, Kingfish Zeeland continues to innovate. They have created a line of cold-smoked, individually vacuum-packed portions and split fillets, both of which have seen success on the market.
Kingfish Zeeland had been considering opening a branch on the U.S. East Coast for some time, but eventually made their decision to open a facility in Maine. The company had previously partnered with the Wageningen University in The Netherlands with a broodstock selection program, and the partnership was “an important step … in the early success of the Netherlands operation,” Megan Sorby, an operations manager for Kingfish Zeeland said.
“It is our goal to replicate that success with our University of Maine partners here in the U.S.,” Sorby said in a statement. “We are working with an existing broodstock of Yellowtail … this partnership will allow us to expand this broodstock and build a hatchery as we move forward with our Maine facility.”
The facility will be located near Chandler Bay in Jonesport on Route 187. The facility will provide incubation services for the company as it develops a broodstock of yellowtail kingfish and scales for production. While the date for the first groundbreaking for the project is still up in the air, Sorby noted that the construction of the facility would take about a year. It would take another year for the fish to reach marketable size.
“Kingfish Zeeland worked with a local university to set up its operation in The Netherlands,” Sorby noted. “[They] wanted to pursue a similar arrangement in the United States. UMaine has an aquaculture business incubator program with which Kingfish Zeeland can work to build up the company’s yellowtail broodstock.”
The company was attracted to Maine for the business because of the strong connection that Mainers have to aquaculture. There is a large market for aquaculture in the state of Maine, with large accessibility to both fresh and saltwater. Historically, Maine has always welcomed aquaculture businesses, as many Mainers depend on aquaculture for their livelihoods. The introduction of Kingfish Zeeland hopes to provide about 70 jobs to local residents and to boost the local economy.
With growing global interest in aquaculture, UMaine has the opportunity to be at the front of the pack of aquaculture innovation, and the opportunity to work with Kingfish Zeeland may bring more opportunities for the university to showcase their research and facilities.