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Among the Helgeland coast's thousands of islands, islets and reefs, and just as many fjords, bays and coves, the aquaculture industry operates a mixture of community building and food production. The still young industry is not only building an industry for the future, it is more than any other industries aware of its role as a premise maker and contributor to everyday life in small communities. On Helgeland, billions of salmon are breed, and investments are made in housing and quality of life in what many consider to be the world's most beautiful nature. Is it any wonder that young people settle on many of the islands?

Havbruk, Polarcirkel, Lovund

Lovund is one of many small local communities connected to the aquaculture industry. Photo: Hans Petter Sørensen

For some it is a well known story, about the two young men from the island of Lovund, Hans Petter Meland and Steinar Olaisen, who prevented the closure of their local school simply by applying for the two vacancies, and who spent all their free time on the development of an idea: How to farm the shiny gazelle of the sea, the salmon.


The history is long, and the slopes have been many since a seaplane landed by the island in 1972 with 1200 salmon fry. In the home-made cages, only 174 of the small salmon survived the first year, but the young entrepreneurs did not give up.


Fifty years after the seaplane landed at Lovund, Norwegian salmons is exported for billions. In 2021, almost 30 million meals of Norwegian salmon were eaten every single day in the world. The export value of salmon in 2021 was an incredible 81 billion Norwegian kroner.

Did you know that before 1990, hardly anyone in the world had eaten sushi made from salmon? Today, Norwegian farmed salmon is the main ingredient among the world's leading sushi chefs, and everyone who loves sushi knows why. No other raw material is nearby in terms of taste and quality.

Although modern technology and advanced underwater robots have become a norm on the coast, most of the industry still maintain their role as community builders and the intention of the two founders when they applied for two long-term vacant teaching positions. On the Helgeland coast, companies such as Nova Sea and Lovund Laks, knows that the quality of life in the local communities are just as important for the salmon in the cages, as the quality of the feed and clean water.

Lovund, Lurøy kommune, Mo i Rana, Giga Factory

The school, which was once threatened with closure, now has 85 pupils. Photo: Lurøy municipality

The two fish farming companies at Lovund have today gained many partners and competitors along the Norwegian coast, also on Helgeland. Some are listed on the stock exchange while others are owned by people who lives near by the farm. Common to all is the belief that fish farming has only just begun, and that research and hard work in sea spray and cold winter days will make the coast an even a stronger mainstay for the Norwegian welfare society.

The Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry in Nordland, NHO, considers the  aquaculture industry in the region as role models for the business community in the county:

«Nova Sea is a good example of companies that create life and light in both rural and urban areas. There is a reason why leading politicians make their trips to Lovund to see what is being done there. The aquaculture industry is the lifeblood of good, vibrant communities that so many politicians say they want » stated Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen, regional director of NHO Nordland in an interview.

Kvarøy, Lurøy kommune, Mo i Rana, Helgeland

Kvarøy, one of the small and vulnerable local communities on Helgeland on which the industry depends. Photo: Kvarøy Fish Farming.

Another of the fish farming companies in Lurøy municipality is Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett. They are based on a small island with 70 inhabitants a few kilometers closer to the mainland than Lovund. The family-owned company was established by Alf Olsen and his son Geir as early as 1976. Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett owns a significant part of the value chain from the salmon roe hatching until the fish is stored in a refrigerated counter in USA. Kvarøy's smolt plant is located in Mo Industrial Park, and the water in the pools gets a slight increase in temperature from excess heat from the industry's cooling water. This reuse of energy is the first link in a value chain where every single stone is turned to strengthen the business's sustainability. Kvarøy's business model is an important prerequisite for being able to reach the very demanding American restaurant market.

Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett is also the majority owner of what will be the region's first land-based fish farm, Arctic Seafarm, in the neighboring municipality of Nesna. Here, seawater will be pumped from tens of meters deep, and the treated wastewater will be led far away from the plant. This improves the health and well-being of the salmon, and the quality of the finished product will be safer than today. The company will also supply its own produced smolt to this plant, and environmental sustainability is also the foundation for the investment in the land-based plant.

Arctic Seafarm, Giga Factory, Helgeland

The fish farm in Langsetvågen will be expanded in three stages. In total, it will be able to produce 15,000 tonnes of salmon ready for slaughter a year. Illustration: Arctic Seafarm Holding AS.

The vision of increased sustainability is shared by all farmers in Lurøy. Material recycling is an important contribution, and recycling of discarded tools and materials is particularly important. In 2020 alone, Nova Sea alone delivered a total of 176 tonnes of waste for recycling, and of this, only 5 tonnes was sent for energy recovery. The rest of the plastic waste was recycled as raw materials for new products, including from the furniture manufacturer Nordic Comfort Products at Hemnesberget. Both Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett, Nova Sea and the architectural company Snøhetta, have been involved in the development of NCP's chair S-1500.

The aquaculture industry on the Helgeland coast has in all years benefited greatly from the proximity to the competent industrial environment in Mo i Rana. In the 70s, the two creative and fearless founders, Hans Petter Meland and Steinar Olaisen, prepared sketches for salmon cages made of plastic pipes. In Mo i Rana, at the pipe manufacturer, Helgeland Plast, the creative idea got necessary assistance.


Today, the circular breeding cages, Polarcirkel, are the world's most-selling cage type and are produced by AKVA Group's factory in Mo i Rana. Along the way, the manufacturer, in close development collaboration with the aquaculture industry, has also developed Polarcirkel Boats. These world-renowned service boats in unsinkable plastic material are produced in Mo Industrial Park.

In addition to the production of cages, boats and smolts, several other players in Mo i Rana work closely with the Norwegian aquaculture industry. The research and environmental laboratory NEMKO Norlab has a lot of activity aimed at the coast, and so has Nordland Research. The aquaculture industry also buys a number of services from service companies in construction, mechanics, electrical and automation.

AKVA, Mo i Rana

Both fish farms and plastic boats are produced by Polarcirkel / AKVA Group in Mo i Rana. Photo AKVA Group

The aquaculture industry west of Mo i Rana keeps large parts of the coastal community going. Transport of salmon, equipment and staffing creates a need for increased ferry traffic, larger speedboats, strengthened power and telecommunications services and, not least, employment and vibrant local communities are created.

The business and political cooperation east-west on Nord-Helgeland is good and has goals that many know from sports: To play each other better.

Current vacancies, ledig stilling, Mo i Rana
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