Ace Aquatec head of sales Ben Perry, left, and senior field services manager Ian Lawson with the A-HCS.

'Every fish counts' as salmon sector makes better use of culled fry and parr

Technology and Tiny Fish collaboration provide new route to market 

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A collaboration between aquaculture technology supplier Ace Aquatec and start-up Tiny Fish is helping Scottish salmon farmers gain access to new markets for small fish that don’t make the grade for marine pens.

During the freshwater phase (the first year after hatching), small salmon that are least likely to thrive at sea are euthanised.

Until recently the culling has been done by giving the fish a lethal dose of anaesthetic, but this renders them unsuitable for consumption. By culling the fish with Dundee-based Ace Aquatec’s portable Humane Culling System (A-HCS) instead, farmers have a product that can be sold, and Tiny Fish has been established for that purpose.

3g to 80g

The start-up harvests, collects, freezes, packages, and stores the small salmon for value-added distribution channels to restaurants, hotels, takeaways, zoos, aquariums and pet food suppliers across the UK, making every fish count in the aquaculture industry.

Zero food waste

The culler is based on the same principle and technology as Ace Aquatec’s award-winning Humane Stunner Universal, which is used to render harvest-sized salmon unconscious in a water-filled pipe before slaughter. The smolt culler ensures all the fish are killed and not simply stunned.

The company’s chief sales and marketing officer Tara McGregor-Woodhams, pictured, said: “The goal of this partnership of making every fish count is closely aligned with our own commitment to sustainability at Ace Aquatec.

“This collaboration has created a real opportunity for Scottish producers to show the global aquaculture sector that putting welfare and zero food waste at the heart of processing is easy to achieve and the right thing to do.”

Tiny Fish, a collaborative initiative involving hatcheries, hauliers, processors, and customers, has successfully harvested fish spanning from 3g to 80g, catering to individuals, restaurants, bait companies and pet food manufactures.

The Tiny Fish and Ace Aquatec partnership has been shortlisted in the “Collaboration” category of the Aquaculture Awards 2024, the winner of which will be announced at Aquaculture UK in Aviemore on May 15.

Fish culled with the A-HCS can be sold for a variety of uses.

Amongst the partnership’s freshwater clients are Scotland’s biggest salmon farmer Mowi and smolt producer Landcatch, part of Hendrix Genetics. Some of Mowi’s smallest fry and parr have been utilised for human consumption and pet food producers such as Golden Acre Pet Foods.

Teresa Garzon, pioneer of Tiny Fish, said: “This initiative is an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the Scottish aquaculture industry in driving sustainability across the harvesting process, from producer to supply chain. I take pride in Tiny Fish’s part in this and our commitment to using every fish harvested. I am optimistic that we will contribute significantly to enhancing sustainability across the sector as a whole.”

Reducing food waste

Dan Philips, freshwater director at Mowi, said: “Farmers want to see every one of their fish sold as food. This collaboration between Ace Aquatec and Tiny Fish is a no-brainer to reduce food waste across our freshwater production. The technology is easy to operate and is helping us reduce our carbon footprint by converting the fish into a natural, healthy and safe ingredient for pet food products and fish oils.”

Landcatch general manager Jarl van den Berg said the initiative was the best solution in the market in terms of animal welfare standards and environmental impact.

“It’s great to see companies working together to set a new sustainable standard for the rest of the industry to follow to improve everyone’s environmental footprint and more importantly ensure companies are using the fish for value-added purposes,” said Van der Berg.

Healthier pet diets

John Blackett, of GA Pet Food Partners, said demand for its eco-friendly pet food the gone “through the roof” in recent years as pet owners chose healthier diets for their animals.

“Pets given too much calorific processed food may, just like humans, put on extra weight. Fish has a lower carbon footprint than meat, and fresh, natural ingredients are better for animal health. So, by working with Tiny Fish, we can help our customers buy sustainable seafood products whilst looking after the wider environment,” explained Blackett.