Pioneer couple mussel in on English ‘riviera’
Aquaculture: Ex-Argyll family plan UK’ s biggest farm for rope-grown shellfish
A couple who were among the early pioneers of mussel farming in Scotland are planning an aquaculture farm the size of Heathrow off the Devon coast.
John and Nicki Holmyard moved to England from Taynuilt, in Argyll, about four years ago and are now running Offshore Shellfish in Brixham.
Their firm is developing what will be the UK’s first large-scale offshore ropegrown mussel farm.
Following successful pilot trials in 2014/15, the farm is being expanded to its full permitted area.
It will eventually be the largest of its type in European waters and will use specially designed technology to cultivate native blue mussels on suspended ropes at three sites between three and six miles offshore in Lyme Bay.
The three sites will cover a total area of nearly six square miles and are expected to produce up to 10,000 tonnes of mussels a year once fully developed.
Offshore Shellfish aims to tap into a huge continental European market – selling to processors in the Netherlands who supply 100,000 tonnes a year to France and Belgium.
Mrs Holmyard, who is also a freelance seafood industry communications consultant and a past project manager for Seafood Scotland’s popular Seafood in Schools initiative, said: “Nobody’s done anything on this scale in the UK before.
“We came down here (to Devon) to see if it was possible and now it’s all heading in the right direction.”
Argyll aquaculture equipment supplier Fusion Marine has had a key role in designing floats for the project, she added.
The Holmyards farmed at Loch Etive, on Scotland’s west coast, for 25 years before laying the foundations for their current venture about a decade ago.
They relocated to the English “riviera” to take advantage of perfect growing conditions in an area relatively undisturbed by industrial fishing.
Their son, George, and daughter, Sarah, are also involved in the familyowned business. George, an oceanographer, is the company’s offshore manager, while Sarah, a business and language graduate who has been working in the seafood industry for 10 years, looks after marketing and sales.
Offshore Shellfish is poised to become one of the largest employers in Brixham, thanks to plans that are expected to create about 70 jobs.
Mrs Holmyard said output at full harvesting capacity would increase the total UK production of rope-grown mussels by about 40%.
Mr Holmyard took inspiration for the design of the farm from a wellestablished New Zealand industry and other parts of the world where offshore shellfish cultivation techniques are being developed.
Rope-grown mussels are hailed by environmental groups as a highly sustainable form of seafood production, while they are also a recommended choice for consumers in the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide.
Scotland enjoyed a boom in mussel production last year, with a record 7,732 tonnes harvested around the country. Shetland accounted for about 74% of the total.
“Nobody’s done anything on this scale in the UK before”