Grant of £450k to move fish farms out to the open sea

The Herald - - NEWS - MARTHA VAUGHAN

MORE than £450,000 has been given by a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment agency to build fish farm pens that could help the con­tro­ver­sial in­dus­try move from shel­tered lochs to off­shore.

High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise say that fish farm­ing could ex­pand be­yond in­shore wa­ters in the next few years, in a move that could boost the sec­tor’s eco­nomic value by £3.7 mil­lion, cre­at­ing more jobs.

Lead­ing aqua­cul­ture equip­ment sup­ply firm, Gael Force Group Lim­ited, has se­cured a £457,000 con­tri­bu­tion from HIE – more than half of which is from the agency’s Ac­cel­er­at­ing Aqua­cul­ture In­no­va­tion (AAI) fund.

The pub­lic sec­tor fund­ing was an­nounced yesterday by Ru­ral Econ­omy Sec­re­tary, Fer­gus Ewing, dur­ing a visit to the com­pany’s In­ver­ness of­fice.

The money will sup­port a £914,000 pro­ject to de­velop new fish farm­ing pens that can be used in off­shore en­vi­ron­ments, while in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and im­prov­ing fish wel­fare.

In­ver­ness and Mo­ray-based Gael Force has been in­vest­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in re­search and de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties around aqua­cul­ture sup­ply chain prod­ucts and has grown its work­force to more than 220 em­ploy­ees in Scot­land.

This lat­est pro­ject is to de­velop an in­te­grated off­shore pen to op­er­ate in more ex­posed lo­ca­tions, where deep wa­ters and rough seas rep­re­sent a more chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment for both fish farm­ers and de­sign en­gi­neers.

The sites will re­quire more ro­bust pens that are specif­i­cally de­signed to with­stand those sea con­di­tions.

Fer­gus Ewing said: “Scot­tish sal­mon was the UK’S largest food ex­port in 2017, and it makes a vi­tal con­tri­bu­tion to the lo­cal economies of some of Scot­land’s most re­mote and vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, pro­vid­ing high value em­ploy­ment in many cases.

“In­no­va­tion and in­vest­ment in the sec­tor to en­sure it has a long term, sus­tain­able fu­ture is key to its con­tin­ued growth and to achiev­ing the in­dus­try’s am­bi­tions.”

Iain Bol­land, HIE’S busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ac­count man­ager for Gael Force, said: “This pro­ject re­flects Gael Force Group’s com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion and re­search and de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity and could be a game changer for fish farm­ing in Scot­land. It will help grow turnover do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

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