Mt Cook Alpine Salmon to build innovative land-based salmon farm in Twizel region

The future of salmon farming in New Zealand. A great opportunity for Mt Cook Alpine Salmon and the Twizel region

A prototype for New Zealand’s first sustainable, land-based salmon farm is in the early stages of development, with backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

SFF Futures is committing $6.7 million over six years to the $16.7 million project, which was officially launched in Twizel today. Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker attended the launch and visited the freshwater salmon farms to hear about Mt Cook Alpine Salmon’s plans for building the prototype.

“Demand for healthy, sustainably produced aquaculture products continues to grow, and land-based salmon farming will enable New Zealand to boost the supply of this high-quality, high-value product,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

Mr Penno says the project aligns with the Government’s aquaculture strategy, which outlines a sustainable growth pathway to an additional $3 billion in annual revenue.

“Land-based aquaculture is a key pillar of the aquaculture strategy, which relies on innovation across the aquaculture sector.

“This project is an excellent example of smart thinking to explore what land-based farming could look like for New Zealand, based on next generation salmon farming techniques.”

“It also fits with the Government and industry Fit for a Better World roadmap for the food and fibre sector, which aims to boost sustainability, productivity and jobs over 10 years.”

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon CEO, David Cole, says the company is delighted to be partnering with SFF Futures.

“There are always risks associated with innovative projects like this and Government support helps cushion this risk and accelerate outcomes,” says Mr Cole.

“Despite the difficult market conditions over the last few years, our customers love the taste of our unique freshwater King Salmon and demand continues to exceed our supply. This co-funding enables us to expand our production capacity through a new way of farming that has the potential to be a game-changer for the company and the aquaculture sector in New Zealand.”

Mr Cole says the plan is to create a sustainable 1000 metric tonne hybrid structure that will use a part flow-through system to emulate the unique conditions of the glacial-fed canals. The facility will be designed to optimise energy use through gravity-fed water and integrating renewable and low-energy solutions.

“This differs from the recirculated water systems used by most overseas land-based farms.

“The design will capture waste, control the flows better to suit the fish, and provide a stable, ideal growing environment. Being land-based, it has the opportunity to deliver greater automation and monitoring systems in an all-weather working environment.

“The nutrients from the salmon operation will be collected to support an aquaponics crop, taking a circular approach and generating value from a zero-value waste stream. This will link to a wetland area that would further purify the water.”

The location of the farm had yet to be determined, but would be within either the Mackenzie or Waitaki Districts.

Other initiatives that will be explored through the SFF Futures partnership include new best practice processing standards for ready-to-eat salmon, and trialing the commercial viability of Sockeye salmon, which is usually seasonal and generally only available as wild-caught.

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Board Chairman, Sir Bill English, says it is an exciting project.

“Mt Cook Alpine Salmon pioneered salmon farming in the hydro-canals in 1992. It is very fitting that it will continue to lead the way with this innovative approach to a land-based farm. A successful pilot will see the opportunity to scale up and to later replicate the proven concept, with huge potential overseas,” says Sir English.

Steve Penno says that internationally, there are over 70 land-based salmon projects either in their planning stage, under construction, or already in operation.

“Mt Cook Alpine Salmon already has international expertise in building land-based salmon farms within its aquaculture division, and will harness this knowledge. They’ll also consult with global experts to design the advanced water management system.”

Mr Penno says the project would lead to new job opportunities in Twizel.

“This new salmon farming approach could lead to significant employment and professional career opportunities in both aquaculture and applied technologies, in a remote part of the country.

“It will build on our international reputation as a producer of high-quality aquaculture products, and develop another opportunity to create a nutritionally rich protein product that can be offered to consumers.”


About Mt Cook Alpine Salmon 

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon is the leading producer of freshwater King Salmon in New Zealand and exports over 60% of its production to markets around the world.

The company operates five salmon farms in the unique glacier-fed hydro-canals that run through the MacKenzie and Waitaki districts.  It owns two hatcheries (and has shares in a third), a large primary processing plant in Timaru and a secondary processing plant in Christchurch where it produces its popular Aoraki smoked product range. The corporate office is in Queenstown.

The company employs over 240 people across Christchurch, Timaru, Queenstown and Twizel – where it is the largest employer.

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon was the first salmon farm in Australasia to be BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice) rated and is currently at the highest 4-star rating. It is also rated Green “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. Nationally, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon is part of New Zealand’s A+ Sustainable Aquaculture Programme.


About SFF Futures

The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) supports problem-solving and innovation in New Zealand’s food and fibre sector by co-investing in initiatives that make a positive and lasting difference. It funds a range of projects from less than $100,000 to multi-million-dollar, multi-year programmes.

Forty million dollars is available each year for projects across the food and fibre sector. Categories include alternative proteins, apiculture, arable, dairy, forestry, horticulture, meat, natural fibres such as wool and hemp, seafood and aquaculture, and regenerative farming practices.

The Government has committed more than $241.7 million in 225 projects to date and, along with the food and fibre sector’s contribution, total funding amounts to more than $520.7 million.

Project Nautilus is SFF Futures’ largest investment in seafood and aquaculture to date. Since the fund was established in late 2018, 31 projects have been in the seafood and aquaculture space, with a total funding commitment of $51.2 million.


Links to related media stories

‘Expand our production’: MPI investing $6.7m into NZ’s first sustainable, land-based salmon farm (

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22 May, 2024 | Posted in: News