New Zealand King Salmon shareholders may face another capital raise in two or three years' time if its planned Blue Endeavour ocean farm goes ahead, acting chairman Paul Steere told the annual meeting in Picton.
In May, the company completed a heavily discounted $60.1 million underwritten rights offer - at 15c a share - to shore up its balance sheet after a challenging 12 months.
The company reported an annual net loss after tax of $73m brought on by an increase in fish deaths caused by rising sea temperatures, continued freight costs and impairments to plant and equipment.
The company's Blue Endeavour project - which has been four years in the planning - will involve rearing fish in colder waters 7km off the South Island coast in Cook Strait.
NZ King Salmon said it will know whether it has environmental consent for the project by the end of September.
Chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the first possible harvest for Blue Endeavour would be in 2027 but "NZ King Salmon acknowledges that we first need to prove the positive outcomes of our new agriculture model."
"Assuming approval to proceed, before expanding into Blue Endeavour, all options for funding remain on the table," he said.
Clare Pinder, from the environmental group Guardians of the Sounds, has in the past called Blue Endeavour into question, saying the temperatures at the proposed site off Cape Lambert are only marginally cooler than NZ King Salmon's Pelorus Sound site.
"It all sounds like a bit of a wing and a prayer to me, and where are the costings for all this new technology?" Pinder said.
Steere replied: "It will be in a stepped manner - cautious steps going through the whole process.
"All shareholders will get those details because it is likely that we will have to go through a capital raise at that stage in two or three years' time," he said.
"But let us get on with the job of making sure that we are getting it right," he said.
Asked by another shareholder if the company had a fallback position if it fails to gain approval, Steere said: "If we didn't get approval for Blue Endeavour we will continue to maximise the quality and performance of the farms that we have, and we may have to go elsewhere."
Rosewarne added the company may have to look at farming a different species that are more tolerant of warmer waters if approval is not forthcoming.
He said the "mortality event" that occurred at the beginning of this year was "particularly challenging".
The harvest for this year will only be about 5,750 tonnes and he estimated this year's Ebitda would be in the range of an $8m to $12m loss.
"As well, as the known mortality from the last summer, we have the lingering impacts of Covid, which for us are no longer sales related, but are the increased cost of freight and the unreliability of the world supply chain," Rosewarne said.