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The first smolts produced at Scottish Sea Farms' Barcaldine RAS hatchery have been put to sea in Shetland. Photo: SSF.
The first smolts produced at Scottish Sea Farms' Barcaldine RAS hatchery have been put to sea in Shetland. Photo: SSF.

The first smolts produced at Scottish Sea Farms’ new £55 million recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) hatchery at Barcaldine, near Oban, have been put to sea. 

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The smolts, which arrived at Barcaldine as eggs back in January, had an average weight of 160 grams – more than double that of smolts grown by the company when using traditional hatchery methods, SSF said in a press release.

The company’s freshwater manager Pål Tangvik said: “This is a major milestone for all of the team, not just at Barcaldine but across the company.

Hatchery operations manager Noelia Rodriguez and freshwater manager Pål Tangvik pictured during the construction phase. Photo: SSF.
Hatchery operations manager Noelia Rodriguez and freshwater manager Pål Tangvik pictured during the construction phase. Photo: SSF.

Greater control

“The new hatchery has given us greater control over key factors including water quality, oxygen levels, temperature, light and speed of flow, meaning we have been able to ensure the best growing environment for the salmon. The result is bigger, more robust smolts that will be better able to withstand the natural challenges of the marine environment.

“We will also be able to shorten the time these salmon will spend at sea by up to two months which will reduce their exposure to these challenges and increase survival rates, and have longer fallow periods between crops which will contribute towards a safer environment for subsequent generations of fish.”

The hatchery’s location on the shores of Loch Creran meant SSF was able to transfer the smolts directly to a wellboat ahead of their onward journey to one of SSF’s Shetland farms, removing the need for transportation by road or air and benefiting fish welfare.

98% less freshwater use

The new facility also delivers improvements in environmental performance.

Hatchery operations manager Noelia Rodriguez said: “Incoming water is filtered to remove any particles then disinfected using ultraviolet light and circulated to anywhere in the hatchery, where it is maintained at a constant temperature of between 12-14 degrees, before being cleaned again and recirculated every 20-30 minutes. Combined, this uses 98% less freshwater and significantly less energy compared with heating and cooling water at traditional hatcheries.

“Adding to this, the building uses a biomass energy system - thought to deliver the biggest CO2 savings of any renewable heat source - to provide heating and hot water, and there is provision for a hydro scheme so that we can generate even more energy in a greener way.”

Two years to build

The Barcaldine facility, which includes four incubation units and four hatcheries, has taken over two years to build and is due to have its official opening in 2020.

 SSF managing director Jim Gallagher said: “We haven’t rushed the process. We’ve taken care to make sure we get it right at every stage. However, the sheer scale of the investment being made - time, thought and money - signifies our commitment to fish health and to providing a more secure food supply. 

“The RAS technology enables us to control with pinpoint accuracy when the salmon are ready to go to sea, giving the fish the best possible experience and giving customers the world over more security over supply than ever before.”

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