Pi­o­neer cou­ple mus­sel in on English ‘riviera’

Aqua­cul­ture: Ex-Ar­gyll fam­ily plan UK’ s big­gest farm for rope-grown shell­fish

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - BUSINESS - BY KEITH FIND­LAY

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”

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