An illustration of Mowi Scotland's extended primary processing plant at Blar Mhor, Fort William. Image: Mowi.

Mowi gets go-ahead for £15m factory expansion

Mowi Scotland has won planning permission from Highland Council for the £15 million upgrade of its primary processing facility at Blar Mhor in Fort William. The work will transform the factory into one of the most efficient and highest capacity fish processing facilities in the world.

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The salmon farmer has signed contracts for infeed to gutting lines, graders and packing lines and for robotic box stacking and the tender process for building works is due to start later this month, Mowi said on its website.

Processing director Scott Nolan said: “Mowi is investing around £15min the upgrade of this facility, securing the long-term future of the plant here in Fort William and incorporating market-leading innovation and technology that will put us at the forefront of salmon processing. We will have the capability to pack 200 fish a minute, which is phenomenal.”

An illustration of the interior of Mowi Scotland's extended primary processing plant at Blar Mhor, Fort William. Click on image to enlarge. Image: Mowi.

Robotic box movement

Mowi said a lot of the technology used in the upgrade, such as automation, will make manual jobs like heavy lifting much easier. In future, more than 80% of the boxes will be robotically lifted.

The company is also seeking staff feedback on how staff facilities can be improved, before construction work begins.

Nolan said: “We will be presenting staff with a 3D fly through of the vision for the Blar later this month. That will be a key opportunity for us to get input into the plans and how we can improve their working environment such as break out areas and refreshment facilities.”

80,000 tonnes

Mowi hopes the new build, an extension of 700m² featuring a two-storey extension of 45m x 15m, will be completed in the second quarter of next year, later than the company had originally envisaged.

The extension will expand the factory’s capacity to process upwards of 80,000 tonnes of salmon per year, in line with Mowi Scotland’s ambition to produce annual harvests of that size.

The Blar Mhor plant was built in 1987 with a design capacity of just 5,000 tonnes per annum. With capacity-increasing modifications made over three decades, the plant’s workforce managed to process 66,000 tonnes of salmon in 2019, but there was no room to grow capacity further within the existing building.