Scottish Sea Farms sets sights on Scotland’s first ‘ocean farm’

The SalMar ASA Ocean Farm

SCOTTISH Sea Farms is looking to trial Scotland’s first open ocean farm, the next step in the company’s ongoing push to maximise fish survival and minimise environmental footprint.

The salmon grower is keen to explore the biological and technological considerations of farming in considerably deeper, more exposed waters – and, in doing so, measure the potential of such locations to help meet growing demand for Scottish farmed salmon in a sustainable way.

With aquaculture regularly cited by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation as having a crucial role to play in achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition, the focus for every salmon farmer is how best to scale-up to deliver this.

Scottish Sea Farms’ Managing Director Jim Gallagher said: “We put a great deal of time and care into identifying the best farming locations, both in terms of finding the optimum growing conditions and ensuring that the local marine environment can naturally sustain such activity.

“Over recent years, the scope of this work has widened to include the potential of more exposed locations; locations that could add to the volumes of salmon grown at our existing 42-strong farming estate.

“For this ambition to be realised however, we need an engaged, robust and forward-thinking regulatory framework that enables Scotland’s salmon farmers to continue growing in a responsible manner and helps the sector reclaim its competitiveness on the world stage.

“With this in mind, we’re eager to take the next step by opening the dialogue with Marine Scotland, SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and local authorities to see if this ambition is matched and if our aspiration of piloting a full-scale ‘ocean farm’ can be realised.”

Providing the multi-million pound investment needed to develop the concept, if given the go-ahead, would be Scottish Sea Farms’ Norwegian owner Norskott Havbruk AS, which is a 50/50 joint venture between Lerøy Seafood Group and SalMar ASA.

Responding to the news, Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is exactly the kind of landmark inward investment opportunity that Scotland needs to thrive and grow, and I am determined that we seize that opportunity.

“The potential benefits of farming in deeper, more exposed locations have been raised many times over recent years, by all sides of the debate. So to see Scottish Sea Farms step forward and commit the time and investment involved in exploring that potential here is hugely welcome news. 

“Such a concept, if realised, promises significant advances in fish welfare and environmental protection, not forgetting new jobs and business for Scotland, and as such it is something that the Scottish Government is keen to progress in partnership with the relevant regulatory and local authorities.”

Chairman of Scottish Sea Farms and Norwegian owner Norskott Havbruk AS, Leif Inge Nordhammer, commented: “Both Lerøy Seafood Group and SalMar ASA are ready to give their backing to this latest investment and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government and regulators to see whether, together, we can make it happen.”

The world’s first offshore fish farm – Ocean Farm 1 anchored in the Trøndelag region of central Norway – was established by SalMar ASA in 2017. Costing £60M and equipped with sector-leading Norwegian aquaculture and offshore technology, the 110m x 68m farm saw strong first crop results with high survival, high quality and consistently low lice levels meaning no delousing treatments were necessary.

The proposed ocean farm would be Scottish Sea Farms’ second sizeable capital investment in recent years, following the completion in 2019 of the company’s £58m Barcaldine RAS Hatchery (recirculating aquaculture system) which aims to grow bigger, healthier, more robust smolts that are better able to withstand the natural challenges of the environment.

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