Norway is a leading producer of Atlantic Salmon ( Salmo salar) globally . Despite ambitions of growth , production in conventional sea-based fish farming is curbed by challenges such as salmon lice and escape of fish. Technological innovation is seen as key to solving these challenges, and policies to develop new concepts for aquaculture have also been initiated by the government (Føre et al. 2022) . In 2023, t he Norwegian salmon aquaculture industry is becoming more technologically diverse with several new production systems including land-based, floating closed and semi-closed, and open ocean aquaculture systems emerging.
The objective of this study is to provide knowledge of industry actors’ perceptions of key challenges and opportunities related to new aquaculture production systems in Norway . This knowledge is important for regulation and discussions of what influences the future development of the industry.
Materials and methods
T o explore industry actors’ perceptions of variables that influence the development of the salmon aquaculture industry in Norway, Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) was used as a key method . The first FCMs were set up by the research group based on Vensim diagrams created during interviews with a selection of industry representatives (fish farmers and organisations). Fish farmers represented different production systems , and the interviews focused on key challenges and opportunities for each system, as well as key challenges related to the regulation of new concepts. Following the interviews, the FCMs were made using the software Mental Modeler which was used in a series of workshops facilitated by the research group in the period 2021-2023 . R epresentatives from the same companies as the interviewee s participated in the workshops. The workshops aimed at identifying key variables and evaluating their relation to other variables in the map. Mental Modeler is a software that allows us to show how one variable directly affects another variable by drawing arrows between them during the discussions.
This presentation will include the FCM of more t han 30 variables seen as important by the industry actors, as well as insight into the participants’ reasoning as to why and how key variables would affect other variables.
In the initial workshops, some key variables were access to area , salmon lice , delousing , need for competent personnel and energy infrastructur e. Discussions showed that all new production systems needed suitable areas to grow and that high salmon lice levels are driving the technological development towards solutions that may solve this issue such as land-based . Furthermore, all new technologies require competent personnel to operate the systems, and a solid infrastructure for energy.
Participants were concerned with geographical and seasonal differences in their discussions, for instance related to salmon lice levels and delousing that will vary in different parts of the country and at different times of the year. Variables such as delousing were seen as technology dependent, since there are several delousing methods that affect for instance fish welfare differently and new solutions are continuously being developed.
The workshops were spread out in time , which allowed participants to make changes to the maps during the project period. T he predictability in framework conditions for the industry became highly relevant in September 2022, when the Norwegian government introduced a suggestion to a new resource rent tax (grunnrenteskatt) for sea-based aquaculture to be implemented from 2023. The variable taxes and fees , that was not part of the maps from 2021-2022 was thus introduced in a workshop in the spring of 2023. Furthermore, the variable political and regulatory predictability (both nationally and locally) was added. Both factors were seen as crucial for variables such as willingness to invest and economic results .
The Norwegian aquaculture industry is becoming more technologically diverse. Using FCM, this study has identified relevant variables that industry actors think is important for the development of the salmon fish farming industry . L ooking into the connections between different variables allows us to discuss different scenarios that can be useful for industry , regulators, and researchers moving forward.
The study is a part of the project "Compareit ", a collaborative project to meet societal and industry-related challenges conducted in close collaboration with key industry actors in the Norwegian aquaculture industry. The project is financed by the Research Council of Norway, grant number 319647.
Føre, HM., Thorvaldsen, T., Osmundsen, TC ., Asche, F., Tveterås, R., Fagertun, JT., Bjelland, HV. (2022) Technological innovations promoting sustainable salmon (Salmo salar) aquaculture in Norway, Aquaculture Reports 24