The Bjørøya AS Group was the first to come into contact with the aquaculture industry in the early 1970s. The extraction and sale of broodstock to salmon hatcheries in the region was then undertaken against the background of purse seine fishing. Some of the genetic characteristics of today’s farmed salmon were probably derived from the genes of this broodstock.
Bjørøya AS was officially established on 24 May 1982 by the Løfsnæs family on Bjørøya in Flatanger. At that time, we were known by the name, Bjørøya Fiskeoppdrett AS and the foundations upon which the company is built are the interest, knowledge and skills that purse seine fishing for salmon had brought with it.
The first general manager of the company, Lillian Løfsnæs was a pioneer – both as a female manager and a leader in aquaculture. There were 1,500 salmon released into the pen off the coast of Bjørøya in June 1982 under the company’s first concession.
1984 was a year characterized by major challenges and the industry had encountered major problems with sea lice. The lice infestations meant that the development of effective delousing methods became an absolute prerequisite for survival. Sea lice are still one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, and there is ongoing development work on new methods for the mitigation of sea lice.
In 1985 in a joint initiative Bjørøya AS imported salmon smolt from Scotland with other industry players. This import was initially supposed to give Bjørøya AS a boost to its production, but resulted in the opposite. The fish disease, furunculosis was detected on the smolt, which caused a significant loss to the company.
Despite resulting in a financial loss, the disease also led to a number of solutions from which Bjørøya AS has benefited greatly in recent years. Bjørøya worked closely with the county veterinarian and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, and we introduced zone separation that involves placing hygiene barriers between sites and geographical areas.
As one of the very first in the industry, Bjørøya procured its first computerized feed system from Akva Group in 1985. At that time, we had approximately four to five thousand salmon in each pen. Today, we can put many zeros after this number.
1991 is another year characterized by challenges. Overproduction caused a significant decrease in prices, and led to what was referred to as the “salmon mountain”. The Fish Farmers’ Sales Association (FOS) bought the salmon for NOK 40 per kilo to keep prices up, but in 1991 this broke down, and FOS went bankrupt with unpaid bills of NOK 1.6 billion.
Bjørøya still had to face challenges related to a variety of diseases, while sea lice developed into a significant problem for the industry. For many other salmon farmers, the lice infestations led to the definitive end to their adventures in aquaculture.
1993 is a milestone year that marks the start of a good time for the industry. The introduction of good oil-based vaccines eliminated the need for antibiotic treatment, and the bacterial diseases that had led to significant losses in the 80s were now under control. The silver lining to enduring several years characterized by challenges was that Bjørøya had acquired valuable expertise and useful experience that we could take with us into the future. We entered a period characterized by good outcomes and healthy finances.
On 30 June 1994, Bjørøya purchased its second concession from a bankrupt estate.
The year 2000 marks a peak in turnover for Bjørøya, with a turnover of NOK 34,798,000 . Alongside other aquaculture industry players in the area, Bjørøya was also one of the founders of consulting and advisory company Aqua Kompetanse AS. At a later date, Bjørøya relinquished its ownership in the company, and today Aqua Kompetanse is a neutral third party.
2002 bought falling salmon prices and another decline in the market again. In addition, a viral disease called infectious salmon anemia (ISA) was detected, which resulted in a degree of slaughter and zone separation. Once again, the industry shows that the experience gained from the challenges faced in the 80s has formed a solid foundation for the development of methods, systems and procedures to meet new challenges. In 2002, Bjørøya had eight employees.
In 2004 a joint operation was undertaken with Midt-Norsk Havbruk AS and established at Vikna. The advantages of the joint operation are good utilization of MTB, risk diversification, high professional skills, greater exposure and better space between the sites.
2007 marks a new peak in turnover for Bjørøya, with a turnover of NOK 71,242,000. We also move into new office premises at Bjørøystøa on the island of Løvøya in Flatanger.
In 2008 the business once again experienced a decrease in prices along with the detection of ISA. So far, this was the last dip and from here, Bjørøya has been experiencing solid growth.
In 2009 Bjørøya was awarded two new concessions, which provide space for significant growth. Production is going well and the prices are good. In addition, we will be awarded a viewing concession, and the viewing center will be fully operational from the spring of 2009.
2014 is characterized by good prices for salmon and an increasing turnover. The industry is now focused on the mitigation of sea lice, and there is a lot of work done on preventive measures. Bjørøya is awarded a green concession, under which our focus is combating sea lice using biological and mechanical methods. A lot of resources are invested in the development of a methodology for the use of cleaner fish such as the lump sucker and Goldsinny wrasse, and Hydrolicer.
2016 is yet another year characterized by challenges from lice. We purchase a Hydrolicer with Midt-Norsk Havbruk. This is a non-medicinal form of mechanical delousing system that is mounted on a large barge. The salmon is then transported from the pen to the delousing barge where it is flushed through hoses and chambers with high water pressure so that the lice flake off. Along with cleaner fish and skilled employees, this investment became a key tool in the fight against lice. Bjørøya went through the whole of 2016 without delousing in the form of chemical bath treatment. 2016 is also the year in which Namdal Rensefisk in Flatanger was officially opened by the Per Sandberg, the Minister of Fisheries at the time.
In 2016, Bjørøya will also go on to become GLOBALG. A.P. certified. The essential aspects of the GLOBALG.A.P standard are the documentation and traceability of both production and product, the minimization of the use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, good animal welfare, efficient utilization of resources and a strong environmental focus. For many years, Bjørøya has had a clear focus on all of these aspects, and receiving such certification confirms that both the job we do, and the product we deliver, are of high quality.
2017 is a year that marks another peak in turnover for Bjørøya, which reaches NOK 608 million. The results have primarily come as a consequence of very good growth, little wastage, good control of the disease and lice situation, and not least, from high salmon prices.
Havbruksparken Midt-Norway will be officially opened in September 2017 by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. Havbruksparken is a joint initiative with the intention of increasing knowledge and creating value and growth in the aquaculture industry in the region. Through effective infrastructure supporting interaction between industry players, there will be opportunities created for the free flow of expertise and resources between the companies.
2018 sees us being awarded the R&D project, FreshNet phase 1, which will run until 2020. The purpose of the project was to “Develop and document the effect of combining brackish water covers with shielding skirts as a long-term preventive measure against sea lice at farming sites in the ocean.”
In 2019 we get our first hybrid boat, Bjørøyvær. This is the first time a service vessel has been built with battery hybrid propulsion. Bjørøyvær is 19 meters long and 12 meters wide, and is considered a forward-looking initiative from Bjørøya. Bjørøya places a high level of importance on climate and the environment, and we will reduce our climate emissions with such an investment.
In 2020 a phase II extension is added to both of our R&D projects, CycLus and Freshnet. The Bjørøya Viewing Center also moves into new premises in the center of Lauvsnes. The salmon market is also affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused global uncertainty in world trade.
The Bjørøya General Manager, Per Anton Løfsnæs, died suddenly on 30 January 2021. His untimely passing, has meant that Flatanger and the aquaculture industry have lost a pioneer and driving force for cooperation, knowledge and development. Per Anton was a strong Flatanger patriot, and he had a central role in a number of start-ups and development projects, such as AQS, Aqua Kompetanse, Namdal Rensefisk, Flatanger Settefisk, Havbruksparken and Folla Maritime production hall.
After a successful 16-year joint venture with Midt-Norsk Havbruk, both parties choose to go their separate ways in 2021, which results in the end of the joint venture. Bjørøya can look back on an eventful, educational and innovative period, but we have now grown to become a robust player table to stand on its own two feet.
In 2022 Bjørøya secured a Maximum Allowable Biomass (MAB) of 3,800 tons, equivalent to almost five concessions, at a price of NOK 597.7 million during the MAB auction for this year. As we almost double the MAB for the company, this involves a solid expansion of Bjørøya. In addition to ensuring our growth, we also start operations at new sites in new areas. We are putting out our first fish into both Nærøysund and Bindal municipality, and Bjørøya now employs a head count of over 70 employees.