Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke admits he made a mistake by not investing in the salmon farming industry years ago.

"There is a very simple reason for that. I did not believe in it. But it is an industry that has been through a development that makes me dumb with admiration," Rokke said.

But on Thursday Rokke set out to make up for this past indiscretion by announcing that his Aker business has signed a new partnership deal with salmon farmer SalMar to create a new offshore aquaculture company.

The new joint venture company, SalMar Aker Ocean, will develop offshore salmon farming. It is seen as one of the surest signs yet that offshore fish farming has a future.

Rokke highlighted the aquaculture industry's success throughout its development into the country's second largest export industry.

With his roots in fishing, Rokke is particularly impressed by technological developments in aquaculture.

The former owner of Havfisk/Norway Seafood began his fisheries career in the wild-fish sector, starting with his involvement in Alaska's pollock industry before moving into cod farming in Norway.

He expected the aquaculture industry would face adversity in the market. "I was wrong," Rokke said.

"When I had the opportunity to move on in the mid-90s, I thought that whitefish would be the right direction for us to invest," Rokke said. Photo: Bent-Are Jensen

In 2016, Aker and Norway Royal Salmon (NRS) announced they planned to invest NOK 900 million (€87 million/$102 million) in offshore farming.

"We see the opportunity, and are not afraid that the market is not there," Rokke said at the time.

Aker CEO Oyvind Eriksen sees the collaboration as a new era for aquaculture.

"We made a mistake many years ago. But it's never too late to turn around. SalMar is a leading star for us in salmon farming, not only in Norway, but globally," he said.

He pointed out that Aker has become a leader in oil and gas over the past 50 years, and that the company has designed over 60 percent of all liquid oil and gas installations in the world.

SalMar and Aker, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Aker Capital, will eventually own 66.6 percent and 33.4 percent, respectively, of SalMar Aker Ocean.

Aker will contribute up to NOK 1.65 billion (€159 million/$187 million).