A year younger than aquaculture industry
When the aquaculture industry was still in its infancy, the Sunndalsøra research station was born. Little did we know then that the salmon farming industry, which was then smaller than beekeeping and honey production, would be one of Norway’s largest export industries 40 years later.
Today’s research station:
- Land-based station with freshwater, seawater and recirculation of water
- Strategic location in Central Norway at the centre of Norwegian salmon production
- Diversity is the station’s strength – has developed many tools to combat specific issues
- Has research facilities for among other things nutrition, formulated feed, live feed, physiology, breeding, recirculation, x-ray and metabolism
- Aquaculture Protein Centre is a Centre of Excellence that has a respiration laboratory for fish at Sunndalsøra
- Holds breeding nuclei for salmon and cod
- Nearly 50 staff
40th anniversary this year
In March 1971 construction started on the Research Station for Fish at Sunndalsøra. You can ask yourself why Norway’s first research station for aquaculture was located precisely there.
“Breeding professor Harald Skjervold at the Agricultural University of Norway (today the Norwegian University of Life Sciences) had for some years used the rainbow trout as a model animal for livestock breeding. There were problems with water quality at the first facility at Dal so there was a need for a better location. Consequently, we established the station at Sunndalsøra,” says Arne Kittelsen, the man who travelled the length and breadth of the country in 1970 in the search for the perfect location.
He came to Sunndalsøra and found plenty of space, a power station that could supply temperate water, access to river water and sea water, an obliging municipal council and Hydro as a neighbour and provider of financial support. He would have chosen the same location for the research station today too if he had to choose again.
When the Grøntvedt brothers placed fish in sea cages in 1970, salmon farming rapidly became interesting, and breeding was joined by other research areas. ”As early as 1972 we saw the need to start with feed and nutrition research in addition to breeding,” says Arne.
Today, scientists also engage in research on marine species and water recirculation, and the company Akvaforsk Genetics Center (AFGC) has its main activity at the research station. AFGC is a spin-off company from the research and is the leading provider of applied genetic improvement services to aquaculture industries worldwide.
Four at Sunndalsøra about the past and future
Gjermund Hjeldnes is the technician who has worked longest at Sunndalsøra, since 1975: “I went from a steady job at Hydro Aluminium with an hourly wage of 34 kroner to an uncertain job at the research station with an hourly wage of 10 kroner. The reason was that I found it exciting to work with something living and something that was new and I believed in the aquaculture industry! We received visits from many people who wanted to start with fish farming and wanted to ask us for advice. It was fun. We felt like we were the centre of attention. I’m still working here today and have responsibility for care of the breeding fish, and the work environment is first class.”
Maike Oehme is a Research Fellow from Germany. “I strongly believe that research on fish in recirculating aquaculture systems is the future for the station. And in a decade most of the hatcheries will be using recirculation in production because it offers better control of the fish and there isn’t enough water. It’s funny that everyone I meet in the industry has a relationship with Sunndalsøra. Many have had a summer job here or know about the station in another way.”
Torbjørn Åsgård is the Director of Research for Feed and Nutrition. “It has never been boring to work here! There is a continual phenomenal development in the field in which we work and that is rewarding.” And this development will continue over the coming decade: “We want to understand in detail what is needed in order to optimise and safeguard the process from the inputs (feed and roe) to the end product (slaughtered fish). Today some resources are lost along the way, but in time it could be worthwhile to plough the energy and nutrients back into new production. Just look at the aluminium industry and what good control it has of the inputs and processes.”
Valeria Ivanova is a busy project coordinator for marine fish, who has worked at Nofima for two years: “We are now starting new projects with wrasse, triploid cod and the activity for Marine Breed AS. At "Sats på torsk" (a national network for cod farming), I recently heard several say that their cod is of top quality so we are proud that it’s us who produce it. One of the things I like best about Sunndalsøra is the international environment; several languages are spoken here and everyone contributes with their knowledge. We can receive guests, students and summer temps from virtually worldwide.”