From left: Jim McKay, group director for science and technology at AquaGen's German owner, EW Group; AquaGen chief executive Nina Santi, AquaGen Scotland managing director Andy Reeve and Scottish government rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon. Photo: AquaGen.

Hooray for Holywood: minister praises expansion at salmon ova centre

Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, Mairi Gougeon, has officially opened a facility that produces millions of salmon ova for Scottish salmon farmers.

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The official opening for AquaGen Scotland’s Holywood Breeding Centre, near Dumfries was long delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 restrictions led us to put off this ceremony more than once, so we are very pleased to be able to celebrate our achievements today,” said AquaGen Scotland managing director Andy Reeve.

The centre at Dumfries will increase production to 50 million eggs over the next three years. Photo: AquaGen.

£5m investment

AquaGen acquired the former hatchery from Scottish Sea Farms in March 2019 and has subsequently invested more than £5 million, rebuilding and repurposing the facility for salmon egg production and providing eight new jobs.

Acquisition of the Holywood Breeding Centre enables AquaGen to provide a reliable supply of eggs from its broodstock, which are reared in, and selected for best performance in the Scottish farmed environment. Key investments include full environmental control of the broodfish rearing environment and state of the art egg incubation systems.

Over the next three years, the company aims to increase production to 50 million eggs, which will be available for delivery all year round to domestic and export markets.

Gougeon said: “Aquaculture and its wider supply chain is an essential component of Scotland’s economy.

“We are working to continually improve the policy and regulatory framework to mitigate environmental impact and at the same time support sustainable growth, and I welcome plans by AquaGen to increase egg production for domestic and export markets.

“I am delighted to see this important part of the breeding sector develop in Scotland, which will support better biosecurity by providing a robust ova supply in Scotland, selected for their performance in the Scottish marine environment.

“With an estimated 75% of Scottish aquaculture supply chain spend already in Scotland, this is a welcome addition with the centre supporting highly skilled aquaculture jobs in Dumfries and helping Scotland to reduce its reliance on ova imports and improve market security.”

Suited to Scotland

AquaGen works closely with two of Scotland’s largest salmon farming companies, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland and Scottish Sea Farms (SSF). Elite breeding populations are reared in their commercial locations on the west coast and in the Northern Isles. The best performing stock are selected at sea and returned to Holywood for egg production.

Keeping broodstock in Scotland facilitates targeted breeding to improve biological traits specific to stock health and welfare in Scottish farming conditions.

SSF managing director Jim Gallagher said: “The opening of the new breeding centre represents a key milestone for Scottish salmon farming. Not only will it bring together the best of nature and nurture, producing eggs from broodstock proven to have performed well in local marine conditions, but by being based in Scotland itself the Centre also offers farmers – and, in turn, customers – greater security over supply.”

Traceability and performance

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland freshwater director Paul Irving said: “We already work very closely with AquaGen to select the best-performing broodstock and breed new generations of premium Scottish salmon.

“The new facility will do even more to improve control, traceability and performance to enable our pre-smolts to thrive in our hatcheries and freshwater facilities throughout Scotland and the north of England, and progress to the cold, fast-moving waters of Orkney and Shetland.”