In many ways, it was fateful that Havard Gruntvedt (59) worked in the aquaculture industry.
When he was 12, the businessman was alone on a boat in the evenings feeding cage-farmed salmon outside Frøya in Trøndelag, where he grew up.
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– That was a long time before life jackets were used, says Grøntvedt.
Today, more than a quarter century later, Frøyværingen is fully occupied with agricultural service company Nidaros Shipping, which this year won Gazelle in the central region. Founded by Grøntvedt four years ago, the company has seen a significant increase in revenue from NOK 2.7 million in 2017 to NOK 78 million last year.
It all started with a used raft that the businessman bought for nine million kroner here in Norway.
Receive order from Canada
In 2017, Grøntvedt recently sold the biofuel company Biokraft, which he co-founded. At the request of fish farms in Canada, Grøntvedt went on to purchase a specialized catamaran designed to be able to work on fish farms.
This is how Nidaros Shipping was born.
– The boat was bought for nine million kronor, and although I knew what to use, I didn’t quite know what I was after. The boat was also left at the Vancouver shipyard for three months before it was approved by Canadian authorities. It was still the first dedicated agricultural service boat on the west coast of Canada, says Gruntvedt.
Thus Nidaros Shipping is a service company specialized in the aquaculture industry that operates exclusively in the province of British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. Today, the company owns six ships, and a seventh is on the way.
The boats are rented by the large fish farming companies operating in the area, including Norwegian Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood for three years at a time. They are used, among other things, in mooring and shipping work and as an auxiliary vessel for slaughtering and handling salmon, or “really everything to do with work on sites”, to use Grøntvedt’s own words.
The vessels are owned by Nidaros Shipping and leased to a subsidiary Njord Marine Service of Canada, which in turn leases boats with crews to fish farming companies.
The aquaculture industry on the west coast of Canada is relatively small, at least compared to Norway, with a total annual production of just under 100,000 tons. Traditionally, the poorer and less specialized boats were used to work on the sites. When I had the opportunity to start working there, it wasn’t just because I knew there was a need for specialized boats, but also because I was already in touch with the area, says Gruntvedt.
In comparison, figures from Statistics Norway show that in 2019, 1.45 million tons of fish and shellfish were sold in Norway in 2019.
A full life in agriculture
Frøyværingen has a full life in the aquaculture industry behind him, and has worked both at home and abroad throughout his career. He calls himself a “slightly thoughtful half” of Fiskeriteknisk høgskole, which at the time was located in Ålesund.
His first job after graduation was in Nova Scotia, eastern Canada. He was only 25 years old when he passed away.
“It was probably about the first time I was outside Norway, but I stayed there for two years while running a fish farming business and a salmon slaughterhouse,” says Gruntvedt.
After that go from strength to strength. His years in Canada were followed by jobs in Spain and Portugal, before becoming a fellow fisherman in New York City on the east coast of the United States. Subsequently, he was the Regional Director of the aquaculture giant Mowi in Norway, but also the CEO of Mowi Canada and Mowi Scotland for several years.
– I had many opportunities at Mowi, both at home and abroad. But you get to a point where you want to do things on your own. Grøntvedt says Mowi’s heavy administrative jobs have their pros and cons, so it was a good idea to start something of our own smaller.
At the same time, he realizes that he has many advantages when Nidaros is settling on the west coast of Canada. As CEO of Mowi Canada, he was living outside of Vancouver in 2004 and 2005.
– I enjoyed it a lot there, so when we received this request in 2017, I had no trouble praying. My knowledge of the region, decision makers and the environment was of course an advantage.
No outside investors
The founder of Nidaros Shipping says that just over ten million kronor went into the company in 2017 and 2018, and that all profits in the years since have been reinvested.
Grøntvedt is currently the sole owner, and according to him there was no need for outside investors in the company.
It has its advantages when I’m the only decision maker, and I avoid having to associate with others. It makes everything easier.
Last year, the company generated a pre-tax profit of NOK 29 million, compared to NOK 14 million a year earlier. The Njord Marine Service had a book value of NOK 47 million at the end of 2020. The subsidiary has a local management of two people, in addition to approximately 50 people who work as crew on the boats.
Grøntvedt himself believes that rapid growth and success is due to a combination of luck and skill, but he also highlights the talented crew he has.
The aquaculture industry on the west coast, and especially in northern Canada, is very important to the locals, so being able to help create jobs there is a lot of fun. I don’t think there will be more expansion there, but we are clearly looking at other markets. For example, Scotland, the Mediterranean, and Iceland are interesting, says Gruntvedt.
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