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Scottish Sea Farms will increase smolt production from five million to 11 million per year. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms
Scottish Sea Farms will increase smolt production from five million to 11 million per year. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms

Scottish Sea Farms has revealed that Barcaldine, near Oban, has been chosen as the site of its £35m recirculation (RAS) hatchery – a facility that would be capable of producing 6 million smolts a year.

The firm’s parent company, Salmar, had mentioned plans for a £35m investment in their annual report last year, but SSF had kept tight-lipped about their intentions until today, perhaps putting the announcement on hold until after the fate of Grieg Seafood Shetland had been decided - had SSF made a successful bid, it would have included the Girlsta RAS hatchery, potentially rendering the Barcaldine project an unnecessary expense.

A press release issued by SSF today explains that, following a period of consultation with the community, the firm hopes to begin work on the former Marine Resource Centre (MRC) site later this year, with the first fish reared in the new facility entering the water in 2019. The project is likely to create up to 25 permanent jobs.

Jim Gallagher, SSF's Managing Director, commented on the acquisition: “We have ambitious plans for sustainably growing the volumes of salmon we produce to meet increased demand across the world for premium Scottish salmon. As part of this, we have been evaluating locations around Scotland to build and develop our freshwater business, and I am delighted that we have found a site that offers an ideal location providing everything we want in terms of power supply, freshwater and connection to the sea. As a result of this investment, Argyll will benefit from high-quality jobs and training opportunities which will include disciplines such as fish husbandry, bio-chemistry and engineering.”

An existing Scottish Sea Farms freshwater facility
An existing Scottish Sea Farms freshwater facility

The planned facility will use 90% less water than traditional freshwater sites, and will deliver significantly improved energy efficiency.

Gallagher added: “This will be transformational for Scottish Sea Farms, raising our production of smolts from 5 million to 11 million annually.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, said: “This announcement is welcome news. It demonstrates long term confidence in the future of the farmed salmon sector in Scotland and reinforces our reputation as a great place to do business. Scotland’s world class fish farming sector generates £1.86 billion of economic activity every year and supports 8,300 jobs, playing a pivotal role in the rural communities, such as those in the Oban area, where the industry operates. Today’s announcement also underlines Scottish aquaculture’s excellent potential – aided by cutting edge technology and innovation – for further sustainable growth.”

David Smart, Head of Special Projects with HIE in Argyll, has been in close discussions with the company over the plans. He said: “This is great news for Scottish Sea Farms and for Barcaldine. The aquaculture sector creates attractive high value job opportunities, particularly for young people, in rural locations. The creation of 25 permanent posts therefore is a very welcome prospect. We are now exploring with Scottish Sea Farms the potential for education, training and development opportunities linked to this project. This would complement the work that is underway to establish Oban as a university town and strengthen the area’s appeal to young people.”