Whole Oceans parent company Emergent Holdings settled with the former owners of PR Aqua, which has been handling the recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) engineering and design for the long-delayed land-based salmon farm in Maine.

The terms of the settlement, announced in court documents in April, were not disclosed.

Nicholas Pranger and Gabriel Pranger of Indiana-based consulting firm GNP filed a complaint against Emergent last July in an Indiana court, alleging it was the only way to get Emergent to pay them money owed.

The two are the former owners of British Columbia-based PR Aqua, and stated they made a purchase agreement with Emergent in 2019 to sell PR Aqua to Emergent for $3.25 million (€3 million).

Through GNP, Nicholas Pranger agreed to continue providing management and executive-level services to and for PR Aqua for five years as part of that agreement.

The complaint stated that despite completing an agreement in May 2019, by May 2021, Emergent still owed Nicholas and Gabriel Pranger the majority of those funds.

By June of 2021, Emergent still owed over $2.5 million (€2.4 million), according to court documents, which the defendants requested Emergent still pay.

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Emergent bites back

In a response to the complaint filed last September, lawyers for Emergent told the court the company provided a cash payment of $3 million (€2.8 million) at the closing of the sale of PR Aqua and also executed a $3.25 million (€3.1 million) promissory note payable to the GNP owners.

Emergent said GNP failed and lacked "the competence necessary, to effectively manage company projects, often severely understating or underestimating project costs and timetables," when it came to both Kuterra and Whole Oceans.

Kuterra, which opened in 2013 in British Columbia, is one of the longest-running land-based facilities to date growing salmon.

The 'Namgis First Nation in British Columbia owns the property where Kuterra operates, and Whole Oceans owns the assets. Whole Oceans also leases the property from the 'Namgis, and has held an agreement with them for salmon production at the site since 2019.

Lawyers for Emergent alleged GNP persuaded Emergent to invest in the expansion of Kuterra based on a business plan for 800 metric tons of new production on a $6.5 million (€6.2 million) budget. Later, the consultant "inexplicably changed those plans" to 1,350 metric tons of new production at a more than $37.9 million (€36 million) budget, according to lawyers for Emergent.

With the Whole Oceans project, GNP presented a business plan for $250 million (€237 million), which now stands to cost nearly $400 million (€380 million), according to Emergent.

Lawyers for Emergent said the cost increase was a result of Nick Granger's "poor planning and failure to take into consideration numerous pieces of equipment and other materials necessary for the project."

Whole Oceans said in April it plans to begin construction work in 2023 on its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) Atlantic salmon production facility on the site of the former Verso Paper Mill in Bucksport, Maine.

The project, which has been in limbo after months of delays and a string of top management departures, is now being prepared for construction on a previously approved lot, according to Whole Oceans Senior Project Manager Mike Thompson.

When it was announced in 2018, the team behind Whole Oceans' land-based salmon farm said $250 million (€220 million) would pour into the rural town of Bucksport, a commitment that won glowing support from Maine State Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and then-Governor Paul LePage.