Scottish farmed salmon viewed from backstage

 

IFFO’s Management Team has just returned from a visit to Scottish Sea Farms. It was not only impressed by the staff’s commitment and passion about Scottish salmon but also by the high-tech equipment being used. Safety and hygiene were clearly paramount throughout and the team was fortunate to be able to visit three different facilities in the Oban area, from the company’s new state-of-the-art hatchery at Barcaldine and processing plant in nearby South Shian to a marine farm on Loch Linnhe. The IFFO team was kindly hosted by Jim Gallagher, MD of Scottish Sea Farms, and his team.

Scottish Sea Farms, one of Scotland’s leading growers of premium farmed salmon and an IFFO member, is owned by SalMar and the Lerøy Seafood Group ASA of Norway. The company employs more than 460 people across Scotland and is the exclusive supplier of Marks and Spencer farmed salmon. Headquartered in Stirling with support facilities in Oban, the salmon grower has farms around Scotland’s west coast, Orkney Islands and Shetland Isles.

 

Feeding the world

Scottish farmed salmon is highly nutritious providing a ready supply of easily-digestible protein in a tasty package. It is rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA & DHA), which play a vital role in heart function and blood circulation as well as brain function.

The entire lifecycle from the egg hatching to the salmon being harvested happens in Scotland, yet Scottish Sea Farms’ salmon can be in every continent within 48 hours. After a period of up to 18 months at sea, salmon are harvested and transported live by well-boat to processing facility where they are filleted, packaged and dispatched in around two hours. From there, the salmon can travel on via a Glasgow depot to anywhere in the world – London, Paris, Tokyo.

 

Quality feed means quality food

Scottish Sea Farms nourishes its salmon with a diet consisting of two key sources of protein: fishmeal derived from fisheries verified as being sustainable by the IFFO Responsible Supply scheme; and a range of plant sources which are also certified for their sustainability.

As well as the obvious relation to growth performance, nutrition is well-established as a key aspect of health management in salmon farming. The natural diet of many farmed fish species is predominantly other fish which provides them with the optimal nutrition. Fishmeal and fish oil are rich in many of the micronutrients that are required to produce healthy products for human consumption but are also important to the health and welfare of the farmed fish. 

To date, only marine ingredients provide commercial-scale volumes of the long-chain Omega-3 oils in farmed fish that are important for good human nutrition. The amazing multiplier power effect of aquaculture, based on a diet rich in protein, enables the salmon farming sector to grow on average 4.5kg of fish using 1kg of wild fish where the wild fish superior nutritional benefits are used in conjunction with other protein sources to meet the needs of the farmed salmon in a single package.

 

Animal welfare is paramount in producing quality feed

The IFFO Management team was fortunate to visit Scottish Sea Farms’ new £50million Recirculation Aquaculture System (RAS) hatchery based at Barcaldine near Oban, which is due to open in September this year and will supply young salmon – or smolts – to over 40 marine farms across Scotland.

The hatchery, which will support 16 full-time roles, many of them highly technical in nature, will help enhance fish health and welfare, further strengthen the company’s environmental credentials and increase harvest volumes to better meet growing global demand.

In addition, the new facility will also be a hub for R&D work including developing a more humane form slaughter process; diverting potential waste (for example, blood and viscera) into valuable by-products; reducing the use of polystyrene packaging; and exploring the capacity of the marine environment to generate energy and reduce reliance on fuel.

Out on the farm the thinking is similarly innovative. Sea lice, for example, is a parasite that occurs naturally in seawater and can attach itself to fish. Scottish Sea Farms is investing millions in innovative new ways to control it, from extending the growth phase in freshwater via RAS, thereby reducing exposure to the sea lice challenge at sea, to protecting sea pens with anti-sea lice shields and deploying cleaner fish (wrasse and lumpsuckers) which graze on sea lice reducing the need for veterinary medicine treatments.

Elsewhere on the farm, sensors are widely used to monitor fish behaviour and the IFFO team was impressed by the high-tech level of all the facilities it visited, the data being collected and the possibilities of using this data to feed into improved performance models. 

 

Transparent supply chains

Scottish Sea Farms’ salmon is fully traceable using a labelling and numbering system. This provides information on where the salmon has been grown, harvested and processed, as well as control over quality and product security.

Independent external audits are conducted by recognised certification bodies and customers on a regular basis, which complement continued internal monitoring and auditing, along with formal management reviews. Gallagher emphasised the importance of certification schemes such as IFFO Responsible Supply.

In 1992 Scottish farmed salmon became both the first fish and the first foreign product to be granted the prestigious Label Rouge quality mark, the French authorities’ official endorsement of superior quality, particularly with regards to taste.