Craig Grounds pictured with his Aquaculture Learner of the Year award last night.

Grounds for celebration

Craig Grounds didn’t know salmon farming existed when he moved to Scotland’s west coast. Now he’s Aquaculture Learner of the Year.

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A Scottish Sea Farms trainee manager who was unaware of fish farming until moving to Scotland has been named Aquaculture Learner of the Year by rural skills organisation Lantra Scotland.

Craig Grounds was given the accolade during the ceremony to present Lantra’s Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (ALBAS) at a ceremony in the Crieff Hydro hotel last night.

Grounds, based in Oban, faced stiff competition from Shetland-based site assistant Stuart Lavender, from Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, and Bakkafrost Scotland area manager Hamish MacLean, from Tobermory on Mull, who were the other fish farmers shortlisted in the category. Lavender was runner-up.

Thanks for managers

After completing his Modern Apprenticeship Level 3 in Aquaculture at UHI Shetland while working for Scottish Sea Farms (SSF), Grounds has now embarked on Level 4.

He described his win a “fantastic surprise” and paid tribute to the managers who have encouraged him along the way.

“It’s great to have the hard work recognised and to represent Scottish Sea Farms. I couldn’t have achieved this without the support of, first, Andrew MacDougall and Peter Coull, and now Colin Maxwell, my manager at Shuna,” said Grounds.

“They have all got behind me, given me time to study and wanted me to do well, as did my tutor Stuart Fitzsimmons at UHI Shetland, who nominated me.”

Craig Gounds, left, and the other winners of the ALBAS.

Originally from Teesside in the northeast of England, Grounds said he had never heard of salmon farming when he relocated to Scotland. But having decided to settle on the west coast with his girlfriend, now wife, he knew it was the life for him.

“Being surrounded by nature, mountains, eagles, dolphins, and even the weather, it’s the best ‘office’ in the world. The people are great, too, and it’s never a chore going into work. I’ve loved every minute of it so far.”

As for the future, Grounds said he plans to stay in Scotland with his young family, continue to learn on the job and finish his Level 4.

Being surrounded by nature, it’s the best ‘office’ in the world ... it’s never a chore going into work

Craig Grounds

“I try not to look too far ahead but if an opportunity presented itself and one day I got to lead a site with my own crop, that would be brilliant,” he said.

Can-do attitude

Claire Scott, human resources business partner for SSF’s Mainland region, said the company was proud of Grounds’ achievements.

“Craig’s award is a testament to his diligence and can-do attitude and very well deserved. We all look forward to watching him developing even further as his career at Scottish Sea Farms progresses,” said Scott.

The ALBAS were created to promote careers within the rural sector, celebrate the achievements of learners and highlight the importance to employers of investing in skills.

Host for the evening was the ‘Red Shepherdess’, Hannah Jackson, a farmer, public speaker, writer, adventurer and photographer.

Industry categories at this year’s ALBAS covered agriculture, animal care, aquaculture, equine, game and wildlife, horticulture, land-based engineering, and trees and timber.