Aquaculture for all

Scotland greenlights £5 million for post-smolt innovation project

Atlantic Salmon Welfare Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) +9 more

A four-year aquaculture research and development project in Scotland has been awarded up to £5 million in public sector funding.

The post-smolt innovation project is being carried out at The Scottish Salmon Company’s (SSC) Applecross sites in the northwest highlands. It will create around 30 new rural jobs and significantly advance salmon farming in Scotland.

The Scottish Salmon Company will create 30 new jobs

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved up to £3 million investment, and a further £2 million has been confirmed by Marine Scotland.

The project is being led by The Scottish Salmon Company as part of longer-term commitment by its parent company, the Bakkafrost Group.

A central aim is to increase smolt size from around 100 g to 500 g in an ecologically sustainable way, using innovative Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology.

It will include innovative husbandry and enhancing smolt testing and vaccination methods to improve fish welfare while increasing production.

Greater control of the freshwater rearing environment allows the length of time smolts spend in the freshwater phase of production to be increased. The marine phase, where the fish are most at risk to environmental and biological challenges, such as predation and disease, will be shortened. This will reduce biological risk and enable greater productivity and quality.

Announcing the funding Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“This investment underlines our commitment to promoting sustainable development for the aquaculture sector. I welcome the new approach being taken by The Scottish Salmon Company since it became part of the Bakkafrost Group and the introduction of new management.

“The project will deliver on improved fish and welfare, applies innovation to address key challenges and contributes towards sustainability. It also supports the creation of new jobs which will boost the wider economy. These jobs include high value, high skill positions in remote rural areas and also add to our burgeoning aquaculture supply chain which makes the whole industry more sustainable in the longer term.

“Salmon is an iconic Scottish product, providing a source of home grown, nutritious low carbon protein that is enjoyed at home and abroad. It is an essential part of our green recovery, Scotland’s largest food export and a huge part of our food and drink success story.”

SSC expects its new RAS facility at Applecross will be operational by 2023

The Scottish Salmon Company employs around 600 people across 60 sites, most of which are in economically fragile parts of Scotland’s west coast and islands.

After purchasing the company in 2019 Bakkafrost became one of the world’s largest Atlantic salmon producers. The parent company has already invested £50 million in SSC and has declared its commitment to continuing this investment over the next five years in areas such as innovative husbandry, smolt testing and vaccination methods to improve fish welfare whilst increasing production.

Ian Laister, managing director of SSC said:

“This new post-smolt technology will be a game changer and we are delighted to have the substantial support of both Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Marine Scotland to allow these innovative plans to be developed in Scotland. Their investment and support will help create jobs in the rural economy.

“Our RAS facility at Applecross will be fully operational by 2023 and will be the largest of its kind in Scotland, with plans for an additional two RAS facilities."