From left: Ace Aquatec head of digital Donald Sutherland, marine protection products business manager Andrew Gillespie-McLean, and Tara McGregor-Woodhams with the A-BIOMASS at the Aqua Nor trade show in Trondheim, Norway, in August.

Looking back, thinking ahead: Tara McGregor-Woodhams

Fish Farming Expert has asked individuals connected to the salmon farming industry about their year, and what they hope for in 2024. We start the series with Tara McGregor-Woodhams, chief sales and marketing officer, chief sales and marketing officer for Dundee-based aquaculture technology company Ace Aquatec.

What have been the highlights for you professionally in 2023?

We’ve had quite a few breakthrough moments this year. In September we launched our A-BIOMASS camera, a state-of-the-art device which has been five years in development. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to ensure real-time millimetre accuracy in estimating biomass, we designed the camera with usability as a priority. It was crucial for us that the camera utilised market-leading technology in a way that was easy to deploy and required no special training, meaning that we could genuinely market it as the ‘fish farmer’s friend’.

We’ve won a number of tenders in Asia and Chile for our humane stunning technology, which provides high-welfare stunning solutions by reducing stress at the point of harvest, as well as improving productivity and reducing labour outgoings for fish farmers.

Together with the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre, we have also been doing further scientific work on our acoustic startle response devices, which are designed to protect farmed fish from predation while prioritising marine mammal welfare. So, we’re well-placed to have a really successful 2024.

What will be the most significant challenges and opportunities for your company in the coming year?

With the success of our A-BIOMASS camera rollout, I’m looking forward to working with the team to expand our offering next year to include more species. We’ve had awesome feedback from our clients about how light and easy our system is to deploy. They love the fact that they are getting reliable, accurate data, without any hassle. So, my sales team are going to be super busy in 2024!

What do you see as the most significant challenges for the salmonid farming industry in Scotland and globally in 2024?

A major challenge that I see for the industry is rising mortality rates on salmon farms, both in Scotland and across the globe. High profile environmental campaigners such as Chris Packham have brought this issue to public attention recently, which in turn has put a spotlight on certification and raised further questions about what the industry is doing to fuel change.

Our goal has always been to address some of the aquaculture industry’s most pressing challenges through the innovative, resourceful products that we create. So, I’d like to see Scotland lead the way in showcasing new technologies that enable better fish farming practices and protect marine ecosystems to ensure that human activities can safely coexist alongside the natural environment. Our existing products have already had a positive impact on fish welfare, and we’ll be continuing to prioritise this in 2024 and beyond.