A new £48 million freshwater salmon hatchery is set to open in Argyll, with the aim of raising fish farming standards in Scotland.
The state-of-the-art onshore facility, based at Barcaldine near Oban, will supply young salmon, known as smolts, to 40 farms across the west coast, Orkney and Shetland.
The unit, owned by Scottish Sea Farms (SSF), will be a centre of excellence in the sector and create at least ten new jobs. Research and development work will be carried at the site, with a focus on tackling some of the key challenges affecting fish farming.
Issues include fish health and welfare problems such as pest infestations and diseases, environmental impacts, ensuring reliability of production levels and increasing harvest volumes.
SSF received £1.28 million from Scottish Enterprise to help realise the project.
As well as supporting the work at Barcaldine, the grant will help the firm develop innovative processes and technologies across all its sites – including creation of more humane techniques, recycling a greater proportion of by-products and harnessing wind and wave energy to reduce reliance on fuel.
Jim Gallagher, managing director of SSF, said: “Researching and developing new approaches and technologies is key to ensuring that we continue raising the healthiest fish in the most responsible but also the most environmentally sustainable way, and this latest £48 million investment aims to advance our work in both areas.
“The £1.28 million grant from Scottish Enterprise means that we will be able to do more of this planned R&D even sooner, accelerating both the innovation and the anticipated benefits for fish health and welfare and for the environment.”
Kirsteen Binnie, from Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scottish Sea Farms is already a national success story, employing more than 430 people across the country.
“Its hunger to farm ever more responsibly is driving forward this latest project – the first of its kind in the sector – which will not only create a state-of-the-art new hatchery in Barcaldine and create new jobs in Scotland, but also reinforces our strong, innovative and forward-thinking food and drink sector.”
Finance and digital minister Kate Forbes added: “Ensuring that the sector grows in a sustainable way remains a priority for us. It is great to see an ambitious and respected company like Scottish Sea Farms investing in innovation to improve environmental control, health issues and production efficiencies.”