History of ICA & Aquaculture: A Timeline


1972-1985 The International Copper Research Association INCRA) investigates copper alloy aquaculture cages and has trials with salmon in rigid cages constructed of expanded copper nickel sheet in Maine. The technology is not yet ready for commercial use.


1980s-2006 The evolution of copper alloy aquaculture cages begins in Japan. New alloys and flexible cage designs are more successful than earlier prototypes. Installation methods are developed and 250 cages are installed in Japan. These early efforts found a 100% increase in fish density and yield. Cages did not clog with organic matter and were in use for at least four years.


2006-2007 Adaptation of Japan’s copper alloy aquaculture cages for use in industrial-scale farming in Chile. During the initiative:

  • Codelco and Mitsubishi Materials Corporation work with other Chilean and Japanese partners to develop the business concept of EcoSea Farming.
  • Codelco leases the cages to farmers to reduce initial cost and improve business economics.
  • Samples of copper-alloy nets are tested in Chile with good results.
  • ICA participates in forming the EcoSea Farming business venture in Chile.
  • EcoSea Farming combines efforts with the Technological Consortium of Open-Ocean Aquaculture (CT-OOA), a consortium of Chilean universities and technical organizations to gain use of $2.1 million in government funding from the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) to investigate the use of copper-alloy cages in near-shore, mid-shore and off-shore aquaculture.
  • Challenges with platform stability arose, but a design study quickly resolved concerns.
  • Cages are installed in Chile and a supply chain is developed.

2009 Manufacturers begin to market cages to the salmon industry.


2010-2011 ICA exits EcoSea Farming, as outlined in the market-development plan.


2011-2013 Demonstration cages are installed in top-tier markets in Canada and Scotland for market leaders Mainstream and Marine Harvest. Efforts are underway to quantify the sustainability, economic and performance benefits of copper-alloy nets.