The event, held at the Macdonald Drumossie Hotel and hosted by comedian Jo Caulfield, saw a total of 13 prizes awarded to companies and individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to aquaculture over the past year.
In a category crowded with talent, the Rising Star award went to Mowi’s Eleanor Lawrie, who has blazed a trail as the company’s first female deckhand and hopes to inspire others into roles that aren’t traditionally for women.
The Collaboration prize was awarded to Rare Earth Global and the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling for their trial validating hemp seeds as a viable novel ingredient in the diets of farmed salmon.
In another competitive field, the Innovation award was given to Australia’s Aqua Clean Tas for its Tassie Devil Tracker 4000, the world's first hydraulically powered mechanical ROV net cleaning machine.
Winner of the Sustainability award was Selcoth Fisheries, a small family-run business making big strides growing rainbow trout. The company has implemented a hydro-electric supply network, invested in humane stunning technology and a water filtration system, and delivered biodiversity and habitat improvement projects across its sites.
The hotly contested Community award went to Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) and aquafeed supplier Cargill for their joint From the Sea to the Land community initiative, which has brought tangible benefits to local causes on Skye since its launch two years ago.
Cameron Jones of Mowi beat off tough competition to scoop this year’s Farmer of the Year award. The judges decided he stood out as Mowi’s youngest ever manager and now its youngest area manager, showing leadership beyond his years, turning around some of Mowi’s most challenging farms and supporting his team in difficult times.
The Animal Welfare prize was awarded to steelhead trout producer Kames Fish Farming for introducing a broodstock programme with genetics experts Xelect and cryopreservation specialists Cyrogenetics, resulting in a strain of trout tailored to its specific environment.
Tom Morrow Tarpaulins of Inverness was named Supplier of the Year. Serving the aquaculture sector industry for more than 25 years, the Tom Morrow team have provided sustainable and humane products to solve and manage the challenges faced by the sector, never missing a deadline and working round the clock to deliver for their clients.
The inaugural Best New Start Up award was won by WellFish Diagnostics, which has developed a potentially transformational service using blood biomarkers to monitor fish health, incorporating AI and achieving early commercial success.
Organic Sea Harvest, the first new, independently-owned salmon farm in Scotland for decades, was named Best Aquaculture Company by the judging panel, singled out for its commitment to producing organic salmon on Skye, to growing the business and for making an impact in the communities in which it operates.
Dr Lesley McEvoy of UHI Shetland, described by colleagues as a quiet but active champion of aquaculture, was winner of the Unsung Hero award. As she retires, she is credited with inspiring many up-and-coming scientists, school pupils and husbandry staff in her role as an instructor, teacher, lecturer and supervisor of aquaculture and fisheries vocational, undergraduate, postgraduate and research students.
Another tireless advocate for aquaculture, Ronnie Soutar, head of veterinary services at Scottish Sea Farms, was the clear favourite to win the Outstanding Contribution award, having earned the respect of his peers across the sector for the range and depth of his work.
The Judges’ Special Recognition Award, created to acknowledge the efforts of a particular company or individual, went to World Feeds, which has made a significant difference to cleaner fish welfare and survival rates with its innovative feed blocks.
Awards organiser, Cheri Arvonio said in a press release: “The Aquaculture Awards celebrate the incredible talent, initiative and sheer hard work that make the sector so successful and we are proud, once again, to be able to honour the achievements of those who have made such a difference this year.”