The remote community of Drimnin now has much better internet access thanks to a collaboration with Scottish Sea Farms. Photos: SSF.

Switched-on salmon farmer helps connect community

Residents and businesses within the remote rural village of Drimnin are now enjoying faster, more reliable broadband thanks to a collaboration with salmon farmer Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) and other local partners.

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Until now, residents in the village, tucked away at the end of 30 miles of a single-track road from the A861 in the West Highlands, have had to contend with a slow, unreliable satellite connection.

Scottish Sea Farms was looking to enable remote feeding at its sites around the Sound of Mull for those times when severe weather makes it unsafe to travel by boat to the pens.

By joining forces, SSF and the community have successfully overcome the challenges of the local geography to deliver broadband via a complex system of wireless radio links and repeaters.

Bouncing the signal

“Traditionally, a wireless radio link requires a direct line of sight, however the exposed location of some of our farms combined with the natural geography of the area meant this wasn’t an option,” said Forbes Baylis, senior IT analyst and project leader for SSF.

“Our proposed solution, in partnership with wireless specialists Rapier Systems, was to effectively ‘bounce’ the signal back and forth from different locations, but this was dependent on us securing permission to install the necessary masts and repeaters at the most suitable locations.

“Drimnin Community Broadband CIC proved instrumental in reaching out to businesses, both in the village itself and across on neighbouring Mull including Tobermory Harbour Association, Scottish Water and Ardnacross Farm situated near the waterworks.”

Well over 40 of Drimnin’s 57 homes and businesses signed up in advance to two-year subscription, enabling Drimnin Community Broadband CIC (community interest company) to place the order for its own 200mb leased line from BT, organise construction works and even start digging the trenches for the power cables.

David Campbell, one of the CIC’s founding members: “Scottish Sea Farms very generously contributed £55k, likewise the Morvern Community Trust and National Lottery Fund awarded us £12.5k and £10k grants respectively, all of which helped towards the infrastructure and installation. Equally important though was ensuring that the new service would be viable to run in the long-term, so we introduced two price packages that makes it affordable to all.”

Community spirit

Drimnin is the second such community to partner SSF this year, with the salmon farmer having already teamed up with rural broadband company HebNet CIC to bring broadband to residents and businesses of Knoydart and Loch Nevis.

The salmon farmer is now in talks with a third remote local community about bringing similar connectivity to its farms and the surrounding area.

SSF managing director Jim Gallagher said: “This latest connectivity project is another strong example of how we are continually investing in our farming practices but in a way that also delivers maximum benefit to the communities in which we live and work. Teamwork, partnership, collaboration, call it what you like – it’s community spirit at its best.”