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Scottish Sea Farms’ new £55m Barcaldine Hatchery has achieved a critical milestone with the first smolts having gone safely out to sea pens.
The smolts, which arrived at Barcaldine as eggs back in January of this year and were hatched and reared using a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), had an average weight of 160 grams – more than double that of smolts grown by the company when using traditional hatchery methods.
Scottish Sea Farms’ Freshwater Manager Pål Tangvik said: “This is a major milestone for all of the team, not just at Barcaldine but across the company. The new hatchery has given us greater control over key factors including water quality, oxygen levels, temperature, light and speed of flow, meaning we have been able to ensure the best growing environment for the salmon. The result is bigger, more robust smolts that will be better able to withstand the natural challenges of the marine environment.
“We will also be able to shorten the time these salmon will spend at sea by up to two months which will reduce their exposure to these challenges and increase survival rates, and have longer fallow periods between crops which will contribute towards a safer environment for subsequent generations of fish.”
Owing to the facility’s ideal location on the shores of Loch Creran, the young salmon were transferred directly from the hatchery environment to well-boat ahead of their onward journey to one of Scottish Sea Farms’ Shetland farms, removing the need for transportation by road or air – another huge step forward in terms of fish welfare.
The new facility promises to be every bit as transformational with regards to environmental performance.
Operations Manager for the Scottish Sea Farms’ Barcaldine Hatchery Noelia Rodriguez explained: “Incoming water is filtered to remove any particles then disinfected using UV light and circulated to anywhere in the hatchery, where it is maintained at a constant temperature of between 12-14 degrees, before being cleaned again and recirculated every 20-30 minutes. Combined, this uses 98% less freshwater and significantly less energy compared with heating and cooling water at traditional hatcheries.
“Adding to this, the building uses a biomass energy system – thought to deliver the biggest CO2 savings of any renewable heat source – to provide heating and hot water, and there is provision for a hydro scheme so that we can generate even more energy in a greener way.”
The state-of-the-art facility, which includes four incubation units and four hatcheries, has taken over two years to build and is due to have its official opening in 2020.
Scottish Sea Farms’ Managing Director Jim Gallagher commented: “We haven’t rushed the process. We’ve taken care to make sure we get it right at every stage. However the sheer scale of the investment being made – time, thought and money – signifies our commitment to fish health and to providing a more secure food supply.
“The RAS technology enables us to control with pinpoint accuracy when the salmon are ready to go to sea, giving the fish the best possible experience and giving customers the world-over more security over supply than ever before.”