The awards were hosted by Scottish broadcaster Dougie Vipond, who announced the 14 prizes that were awarded to companies and individuals making exceptional contributions to the aquaculture sector over the past year.
The judging panel had a tough job deciding on the Rising Star Award among many deserving candidates and, in the end, it was agreed it should go to two up-and-coming youngsters, Andre Van of Kames Fish Farm, who has “transformed” fish health management at the company, and Rhianna Rees of SAMS Enterprise, an “effective leader and networker” in the seaweed sector.
The Collaboration Award went to Mowi and the Brexit Working Group collaboration that ensured a smooth transition for Scottish salmon in the months after Britain’s exit from the EU. The transition process required cross-departmental interaction and co-ordination from the salmon sector, which was the only area of UK seafood exports which successfully set up inspection and documentation hubs.
In another hotly contested category, the Innovation Prize was awarded to marine consultant BMT, for its Decision Support System, a marine modelling tool that places farm sites in areas less likely to have high levels of sea lice and that the company claims will contribute to significant reductions in the cost of sea lice management measures.
Winner of the Environmental Impact Award was Fjord Maritime for its Fjord Hybrid technology that delivers sustainable energy to fish farms, saving costs and reducing the sector’s carbon footprint. The company has more than 100 systems operating in Norway and plans to open a Scottish base this year.
Scottish Sea Farms won the Economic Sustainability Award for its commitment to ensuring the company’s policies and practices are as attractive as possible to today’s workforce, helping safeguard the long-term economic sustainability of its remote farms and facilities.
Meanwhile, the Community Initiative Award went to the Scottish Salmon Company, which established its Healthy Communities Community Charter to bring people and communities together by encouraging staff to play an active part in the areas they work in and champion local causes.
The Shellfish Farmer of the Year honours went this year to Judith Vajk of Caledonian Oysters, described as “inspirational” after taking over the running of the farm following her husband Hugo’s death in an accident a few years ago, and “persevering in the face of adversity” to maintain a successful business.
Stephen Woods of Scottish Sea Farms was named Finfish Farmer of the Year, a farming veteran who has been with the company for 27 years and was recognised for being its best performing farm manager of all time, “setting and continually raising the bar for other farmers to aspire to”.
Ace Aquatec and Stirling University were joint winners of the Animal Welfare Award, for their work, sponsored by the Humane Slaughter Association, to extend humane slaughter to more of the world's farmed fish species, in a project designed to ensure 100 percent of fish stunned electrically are unconscious before death. The technology is being rolled out worldwide to humanely stun, and monitor the efficacy of that stunning, in the top ten commercially grown fish species.
The Aquaculture Supplier of the Year was Nutrition Analytical Service, of the University of Stirling. Run by James Dick at the Institute of Aquaculture, this independent laboratory provides advice on aquafeed to its customer base, which spans the Scottish and international aquaculture industries. During the pandemic, it maintained services across the aquaculture sector, from feed manufacturers to fish production, to ensure the delivery of vital supplies to the retail market.
Scooping the coveted Best Aquaculture Company Award in a highly competitive field was Kames Fish Farming, the family company and aquaculture pioneer that has been farming steelhead trout for 50 years and has recently embarked on an exciting new chapter in its growth.
And this year, for the first time, a Judges Special Recognition Award was created to acknowledge the special efforts of a particular company or individual. The recipient, Pacific Ocean Culture, based in Fiji, emerged during several categories in the judges’ deliberations as a dynamic enterprise, punching above its weight with its environmental programme, a local healthy eating campaign and focus on developing the country’s aquaculture sector.
Cooke Aquaculture Scotland’s long-serving biological controller Ian Keen-Smith was named Unsung Hero. Described by colleagues as a “sea of calm” and “someone to talk to when things need to be fixed”, Ian has survived the consolidation of the industry, worked for 15 managing directors and is now retiring, after 47 years in the business.
Another Scottish pioneer, Jim Treasurer from FAI Farms, won the Outstanding Contribution Award for his work in fish biology and sustainable aquaculture over 30 years, most recently in cleaner fish application in fish farming.
Aquaculture Awards and Aquaculture UK organiser Diversified Communications paid tribute to all the award entries, and to the sponsors who helped make the event happen, including SAIC, Fish Farmer, MSD Animal Health, Ocean Kinetics, M&S Food, DSM, BioMar, Poseidon, Hendrix Genetics, Solvtrans, Cargill, Stingray, the Institute of Aquaculture, Skills Development Scotland, Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland.
Event Director Cheri Arvonio said: “Congratulations to all the amazing award winners and also to all those who entered. The standard was exceptionally high, making the judges’ decisions difficult, but reflecting the wealth and breadth of talent in this incredible sector.
“It feels more important than ever to recognise hard work and dedication in the industry after the challenges of the past two years and we are proud to honour the achievements made by the most innovative and successful operators in aquaculture.”