The former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport. Credit: Gabor Degre

The investor behind a $250 million indoor salmon farm proposed for Bucksport is working to become the majority owner of one of the first land-based salmon farms in the world.

Emergent Holdings, the parent company of Whole Oceans, and Kuterra LP have agreed on a deal that could give Emergent a majority stake in Kuterra’s salmon farm on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s Pacific coast. The facility in British Columbia was the first in North America, and second in the world, to raise salmon at a commercial scale using a recirculated aquaculture system — the same type of system proposed in Bucksport.

The ‘Namgis First Nation formed Kuterra and has been growing Atlantic salmon since 2013 at a facility owned by the nation on northern Vancouver Island. Whole Oceans announced its plan to build in Bucksport in February 2018 and closed on a deal to buy a portion of the former Verso Paper mill site May 21. The Bucksport facility would be larger than the Kuterra site.

With its Bucksport facility on the East Coast and the Kuterra plant in British Columbia, Emergent would gain valuable knowledge about growing Atlantic salmon while working toward capturing at least 10 percent of North America’s Atlantic salmon market, Emergent officials said.

“Given Kuterra’s successful proof of concept, we are excited to work with their experienced staff and gain valuable insights and synergies to advance our workforce training,” Whole Oceans President Jason Mitchell said in a statement released Monday. “We look forward to being part of a larger picture that will deliver fresh, premium salmon to both coasts of North America.”

Before Emergent can acquire a majority stake in Kuterra, the transaction requires the ‘Namgis First Nation’s approval. Kuterra’s board of directors has recommended that Emergent offer to the nation’s elected council, and a decision is expected early next month, Kuterra Chairman Eric Hobson said.

Kuterra has been searching for two years for either a buyer or more capital to update and expand its operations, Undercurrent News has reported.

Kuterra’s experience raising Atlantic salmon using a recirculated aquaculture system has shown that land-based Atlantic salmon farming using a recirculated aquaculture system is environmentally safe, economically sound and produces premium-quality Atlantic salmon, Mitchell said.

In Bucksport, Whole Oceans now needs to apply for construction permits and hopes to start building the new facility later this year.