Almost a year has passed since Russia invaded Ukraine and ended peace in Europe. The war has shattered millions of lives, destroyed countless buildings and ruined the country’s infrastructure.
Lubomir Haidamaka knows this all too well.
Haidamaka is chief technology officer of Ukraine-based aquaculture equipment supplier Vismar Aqua. Among other projects, Haidamaka and his team helped set up Europe’s largest shrimp farm. But the timing couldn't have been worse.
Last year, Haidamaka told IntraFish, the farm, which had just started operating, had to close almost immediately after the invasion.
The facility has the capacity to produce 500 metric tons of vannamei shrimp, with a hatchery, growout facility, processing area and a nearby feed mill.
But what could have become Europe's biggest shrimp farm is still closed.
“I was talking to representative a few weeks ago and they are not yet ready to reopen,” Haidamaka told IntraFish.
“They are still waiting for the situation to improve. The energy crisis is a real issue. There are frequent power outages and a project like this cannot continuously rely run on generators as it would be too costly."
The building and the project, however, is far from deserted.
“Some staff is living there now. They keep it all clean and in good order, and as soon as the situation changes, it will quickly be able to restart," he said.
At the moment, the staff would have had to fly to Moldova or Bucharest to get broodstock, and since this remains too risky, it is better to wait and take care of the farm, Haidamaka said.
But it is not just this project that is on hold. Almost all of Vismar Aqua’s domestic projects are on ice.
The company is situated eight kilometers from Kyiv, which is under missile attacks once every eight to 10 days, he said.
While Vismar Aqua's office is now more than 500 kilometers from the war zone, compared to only 25 kilometers last year, it is 140 kilometers closer to the Belarusian border, from which Russian troops also can invade, he said.
Despite this, the team still manages to keep busy and is mainly focusing on international projects.
Vismar Aqua has just finished the design of one of the largest vannamei farms in Dubai, which is currently awaiting building approvals.
“It was a very good job. I’m very happy and proud of my team," Haidamaka said. "It was a huge job, which despite the war, we managed to turn around quickly.”
Vismar Aqua’s pipeline also includes projects in Poland and Azerbaijan, and further down the line it is looking into a potential contract in Montenegro.
Company representatives visited Azerbaijan recently and agreed to a contract for a 20-metric-ton farm with expansion potential.
Running a company in the middle of a war comes with, unsurprisingly, a lot of unexpected disruptions.
“I tried to work earlier today but had to stop because of a power failure,” he said. “What can you do? I read books, I just try to keep busy. I need to do something. Anything."
Much of Ukraine seems to think along the same lines. In Kyiv, reclaimed areas are now being renovated.
“Buildings and plants are being rebuilt," Haidamaka said. "People don’t believe that the Russians will come back. It would take too much resources.”
Planning for the future makes it easier for Ukrainians to cope, Haidamaka said.
There have been some positive developments within Ukraine for Vismar Aqua. The company recently began planning a few small shrimp farms in western part of Ukraine, close to the Polish border.
Haidamaka is confident there will be peace across the country in the near future, and Ukraine will soon join the EU and NATO -- a move that will change how investors view the country, he said.
He is particularly hoping for more investment into the country’s aquaculture sector. Ukraine has huge potential to become seafood self-sufficient, and even to start to export significant volumes, he said.
Last year, Ukraine produced just 16,000 metric tons of farmed seafood, mainly carp.
“This is nothing," Haidamaka said.