Nofima is working in R&D for the aquaculture, fisheries and food industry, and provide research at an international level. Nofima has three research divisions; Aquaculture Division, Division for Fisheries Industry and Market, Division for Food and Science.
Nofima is located at Ås, Stavanger, Bergen, Sunndalsøra, Averøy and Tromsø. For this project NOFIMA Centre for Recirculation in Aquaculture (NCRA) and NOFIMA Cleaner Fish Experimental Unit (CFU), both at the Research Station for sustainable aquaculture at Sunndalsøra, and the NOFIMA Next Generation Sequencing (NNGS) at Ås will be included. Sunndalsøra has inndor tanks with salmon, wrasse and lumpsucker on RAS and flow through. NNGS carries out research on methodology to characterize microbial communities.

Name of the infrastructure: Nofima Centre for Recirculation in Aquaculture (NCRA)
Location: Sunndalsøra, Norway
Website address:
Contact: Per Brunsvik


Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) can provide good control of the water environment, sensible utilisation of water sources, less discharge of nutrients, and better protection against introduction of external pathogens. However, cold-water RAS for Atlantic salmon and Atlantic cod are little used in Europe, and many questions about water quality thresholds, growth, and fish welfare remains unanswered for this production form.
The Nofima Centre for Recirculation in Aquaculture (NCRA) carries out research on recirculation on a broad basis. Experiments in the areas of fish nutrition, physiology and welfare are central in this facility. This research facility is to the best of our knowledge unique due to:

  • NCRA is designed for studies on physiological and nutritional requirements of fish in cold-water RAS
  • NCRA is designed for studies across several scales, from small-scale to industrial scale; relevant data for European aquaculture industry can therefore be obtained
  • Four research RAS for cold-water species using three-chambered moving bed bioreactors and ozone
  • Flexibility of water sources for experiments; seven water qualities, recycled or single-pass, can be assigned to tanks for studies on water quality impact on e.g. fish performance
  • Degree of control and monitoring using modern e-infrastructure
  • NCRA offers possibilities for studies on innovative energy forms in aquaculture; A sustainable energy source for water and building heating, and possibly cooling, is installed in the form of waste heat water (+80°C) from nearby aluminium production.

The NCRA has a 1750 m² ground area, and a 2nd storey of 550 m2. The centre features six experimental sections and has a total culture volume of 1100 m³. The facility has access to both freshwater (3 intake pipes, well and surface water) and seawater (intake from 40 m depth, microscreen and UV-filtered). Cooling water is taken from a nearby hydro power station or heat-pumps in other parts of Nofima Sunndalsøra.

Two experimental sections contain 15 separate 2 m tanks in each, and a third section has 18 pcs of 1 m diameter tanks. During experiments all these 48 tanks can use water from two separate medium-scale recirculating systems (RAS 1 and RAS 2), or two other water qualities in single-pass mode. These water qualities can be randomly assigned to individual tanks and sections. Further, three sections have each three 100 m³ tanks for experiments on a large, near-commercial scale. Two of these sections have separate RASs, while one section operates as single-pass. Feeding is fully automatic and computer controlled, with tank level feeders in the three experimental sections, while the larger tanks have a pneumatic feeding system with rotor feed distributors. Light regimes in all six sections can be programmed in the case such factors are to be used in experiments.

Services currently offered by the infrastructure

The centre thus has four separate RAS, containing tanks with triple outlets (side, centre, and centre particle), which can be varied and thus invites studies on tank water velocity and turnover effects on the fish. Further, the systems contain particle collectors at tank level, ozone treatment, belt micro screens, moving bed bioreactors each with three chambers, counter-current CO2 degassers with temperature control of the air, and pump sumps. Oxygenation is at tank level, thereby avoiding bias in experiments which can happen if only the main pipes are oxygenated.
The centre is controlled by two programmable logic controllers (PLCs). This enables continuous logging of research data, including pump status, water flow, temperature, oxygen, pH and ORP. The centre also has an autoanalyser for measurement of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and total inorganic carbon.
The building is purpose-built for the research infrastructure with entrances, and below-ground level areas for easy access to pipe trenches. The centre has a viewing area on the second floor, which enables visitors and students to get an overview without crossing the hygiene barriers. In addition, the second floor has a 200 m² area for moving, sorting and sampling large quantities of experimental fish, and meeting and control room. Each of the six experimental sections and the water treatment room have sluices for contamination control. There are a total of five air ventilation systems, including a separate plant for heating or cooling of the intake air to the CO2 degassers for all four RAS. In cases where infection is suspected, the ventilation plant may be shut off for individual sections.
This facility is newly constructed, and the numbers of users are therefore limited at the moment, although increases will occur soon. One international user (USA based), and two national users are affiliated with activities occurring in the facility. In addition, two trainees from Chile (PhD level), and a visiting PhD student funded by the Government of Spain, are currently working on Nofima projects in the centre.
This facility is integral to the Nofima Research Station for sustainable aquaculture at Sunndalsøra, which has a large national and international user base and is well known in the field world-wide. Significant break-throughs have been made in fish nutrition, fish welfare and quantitative genetics. In the last years, 9 national research institutes and 22 national aquaculture industry companies have been involved in projects. Internationally, 11 research institutions and 27 industry companies have been involved.

Modality of access

Visitor planning to perform experiments in the NCRA facility will provide an experimental plan for their work, preferably in collaboration with Nofima researchers in the project. This will enable planning of activities in relation to other NCRA activities. The visitors will, once they arrive, have the same access to the facility, equipment and technical support as any of the Nofima researchers already working in the facility.

NCRA will offer equipment, technical assistance, and collaboration with researchers to do experiments in many fields on Atlantic salmon, cod, and rainbow trout. Support will be given for the following type of research, but other types of research questions can also be considered: Fish nutrition related to RAS can be studied by using different feeds across several water qualities, to study if e.g. the fish adapt differently to challenging water quality according to nutritional status. Factors such as light-regime, temperature, water velocity, fish density etc. can be superimposed on the experimental designs. Alternatively, two feeds of differing physical qualities can be used in separate RAS, to study impacts on fish performance and welfare due to high or low fragmentation of pellets and faeces in the rearing water. The centre gives exceptional possibilities to study differences in fish performance when reared in either single-pass, RAS or RAS with different hydraulic retention times. Water quality thresholds, e.g. chronic or acute limits for ammonia or nitrite, can be determined in the section with smaller tanks. Most water quality limits for salmonids today have been established in a flow-through environment, but in this facility thresholds in a RAS environment can be found.
Support will also be offered for RAS courses and workshops for students, other researchers, or industry. The two medium scale RAS will give the students hands-on experience in how to establish and maintain optimal water quality. The building contains rooms that can be used for classes, where real time data from the different RAS may be shown.
Visitors and partners that come to NCRA and want to perform trials in the facility will meet a scientific environment with highly qualified personnel. The visitors will collaborate with leading scientists within physiology, nutrition, water quality and welfare. The technical support at the research station is of highest quality since they are trained and educated to perform trials in a scientific manner. Nofima Sunndalsøra is frequently receiving national and international visiting scientists that perform trials and exchange scientific ideas. The visitors will be carefully followed up, and be included in the daily scientific work. NCRA can also provide offices, meeting rooms, and access to housing.

Unit of Access

The unit of access at NCRA is defined as one tank/week; equalling the occupation of one standard tank for seven days. For instance, 108 tank/weeks can imply an experiment using 12 tanks (e.g. a 2x2 factorial experiment in triplicate tanks) for 9 weeks. Nofima uses actual cost method; it is an accurate and updated method to calculate the cost associated with the TNA.