SCOTTISH Sea Farms (SSF) has hailed the green light for its £35 million smolt hatchery in Barcaldine, Argyll, as “transformational” for the company.

The salmon producer has secured planning permission from Argyll and Bute Council for the RAS (recirculating aquaculture system) facility, which will allow it to ramp up the production of smolts or young salmon from five million to 11 million per year.

SSF said it will employ 25 permanent skilled staff at the site, which it aims to begin building in the next few weeks. It hopes the first fish to be reared in the facility will enter the water in 2019. Smolts reared on the site will ultimately be transferred to the company’s fresh and sea water sites in locations such as Orkney and Shetland to be matured.

Loading article content

SSF, which employs about 440 staff in sites around Scotland, said it secured planning permission for the Barcaldine project after consulting the community. The company, which said Barcaldine will account for about half of the £70m it plans to invest in the next few years, noted that it had adapted its plans to ensure the site is developed in a way that benefits the community and supports sustainable growth in the area.

Jim Gallagher, managing director of SSF, said: “I am delighted by the positive decision from the local authority and the support from the local community.

“We are pleased that this decision has been taken so quickly and because of this investment, Argyll will benefit from high-quality jobs and training opportunities which will include disciplines such as fish husbandry, bio-chemistry and engineering.”

The investment by SSF comes as farmed salmon continues to be one of Scotland’s biggest export successes, accounting for around 40 per of Scottish food exports by value.

In February it was revealed that the overall value of food and drink sales to Japan reached £98.7m in 2015, up nine per cent on the year before. Seafood, underpinned by salmon bound for the sushi market, made up 16 per cent of the total.

And the Scottish aquaculture sector is poised to become even more important to the Scottish economy in the next decade and a half.

Research for the 2030 Aquaculture Strategy found that the sector has the potential to double the total value of its output to £3.6 billion in the next thirteen years.

SSF, which is the second biggest farmed salmon producer in Scotland, said that it will deploy best practice in fish heath and husbandry, production and environmental impact at Barcaldine. It declared the facility would use 90 per cent less water than traditional freshwater sites, and be significantly more energy efficient.

Mr Gallagher added: “This will be transformational for Scottish Sea Farms, raising our production of smolts from 5 million to 11m annually, and helping us to meet the rising global demand for our premium Scottish salmon and to grow our harvest volumes and revenues sustainably.

“It will also further increase our contribution to Scotland’s economic prosperity and the development of our coastal communities.”

With hatcheries, freshwater and marine locations on the west coast of Scotland, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands, and processing and freshwater in South Shian, Scalloway and Shetland, SSF exports salmon to more than 20 countries. The UK, France and the US are its biggest markets. The company is owned jointly by Leroy Seafood Group and SalMar ASA.