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The first young salmon reared at Scottish Sea Farms’ new hatchery at Barcaldine have now been harvested and delivered to customers around the world.
The fish were transferred a year ago from the £58 million state-of-the-art hatchery near Loch Creran to the company’s Loch Nevis C farm for on-growing.
The smolts, with an average weight of 178g when put to sea, are more than double the weight Scottish Sea Farms would expect to achieve using conventional hatchery methods and reached market size two months quicker.
Freshwater Manager Pål Tangvik said the bigger and healthier smolts are down to the hatchery’s recirculating aquaculture system – or RAS for short – giving much greater control over the key growth factors of water quality, oxygen levels, temperature, light and speed of flow.
Mr Tangvik said the smolts require less time at sea but are better able to withstand the natural challenges of the marine environment.
The 17,500m2 hatchery at Barcaldine has scope to produce up to 10 million smolts annually. The young salmon are transferred directly from the hatchery to a well-boat down a pipeline before being transported to one of the salmon grower’s 42 marine farms around Scotland’s west coast, Orkney and Shetland.
Of the 5,200m3 of freshwater required per day, up to 99 per cent is recirculated, equating to a saving of over 20 times the freshwater consumption of conventional methods.
This water is cleaned every 30 minutes via a complex system of filters and UV light with no chemicals and kept at a constant temperature via a combination of heat pumps and heat exchangers using less energy than traditional kerosene boilers or electric chillers and can also recover heat from waste-water for reuse.
Meanwhile, a biomass system run on locally-sourced wood chip provides heating and hot water throughout the rest of the facility.
Scottish Sea Farms Managing Director Jim Gallagher said: ‘When it came to transforming our freshwater farming, it seemed only natural that we do so in the greenest way possible: from reducing our use of fossil fuels or finite resources such as freshwater, to provision for our own hydro scheme.
‘Through the technologies available to us, we’re also able to capture any waste material from the growing cycle. This is then removed by Invergordon-based waste management company, Rock Highland, who recirculate it as nutrient-rich agricultural fertiliser to aid crop development.
‘It’s all part and parcel of our commitment to responsible, sustainable food production.’