Mag and Ger Kirwan with some of of their Goatsbridge Trout products.

Ready for the future, come rain or shine

Climate change is a worry for many fish producers, but the owners of a trout farm in Ireland have done their best to prepare for whatever Mother Nature has in store


The owners of an Irish trout farming business are futureproofing against the costs of coping with climate change as part of a €1.68 million (£1.465m), investment that also increases processing efficiency and volume.

Ger and Mag Kirwan, who run Goatsbridge Trout Farm near Thomastown, County Kilkenny, have installed a 200-kW solar farm to power pumps that recirculate water around fish ponds in the summer, when levels in the Little Arrigle river that the farm takes its water from can be low.

Goatsbridge produces rainbow trout in ponds first dug by Ger’s father, Padraig, on his small farm in 1961 and rebuilt a couple of years ago. The company also has a processing facility at Goatsbridge and a second farm nearby, plus four sites in County Wicklow - a hatchery and nursery and three grow-out units.


Mag Kirwan says that in recent years the water table has been dropping in summer, and the Goatsbridge team has also seen more eutrophication in the river caused by run-off of nutrients from fields. As a result of those changes the fish farm used liquid oxygen to ensure ponds remained properly oxygenated, but price increases made that untenable.

“We decided we’d invest in being able to generate our own oxygen, then we decided we’d rebuild our main farm (Goatsbridge) to start with. We have the ability to recirculate the water amongst groups of our ponds,” Mag tells Fish Farming Expert.

The solar panels at Goatsbridge will provide power for pumps if water levels in the river supplying the fish farm drop.

“Last summer (2023) was a very good summer for water. The water temperatures were quite good, and we didn’t need to turn any pumps on or generate much oxygen, but at the same time – regardless of whether the water table is low, or the temperatures are high – we want to know that we can still produce fish at a consistent cost per kilo.

“Our investment has allowed us to counteract the changes in environmental conditions, the global warming, because that’s what’s happening.”

The solar farm is the latest in a string of improvements made by the Kirwans.

“In 2021, we reconstructed our fish farm, which cost €1.7 million (£1.47m),” says Mag.

“Then the (Irish) Brexit Adjustment Fund became available, and we decided to make hay while the funding was available and do other jobs. In the last 20 months we have extended our factory, giving us more capacity and better efficiency. We also bought some equipment for the factory, and the third thing we did was build the solar farm.”

Brexit grants

The total cost of those initiatives was €1.68m of which €666,540 came from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme and the Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme, administered through Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency.

Goatsbridge Trout now has an expanded product range that now includes smoked trout, trout pâté, fish chowder, and Ireland’s only caviar made from trout roe.

One significant outlet is retailer Sainsbury’s, which stocks the company’s products in more than 400 of its UK stores.

“Our whole experience with Sainsbury’s has been positive,” says Mag. “The support they give to people like us who are trying to develop and grow our brands is amazing: the mentoring support, the financial support in terms of promotions and things like that, absolutely amazing.”

The company’s next move is to supply online supermarket Ocado.


Mag is contemplating semi-retirement next year but won’t be stepping away from the sector completely.

“I love what I do, I love the industry, I live and breathe it, I believe in it,” she says. “I think we’re lucky to be working in the food industry.

“I do believe in the future of aquaculture, but I think we need to really look at what we’re doing in terms of the environment, and we have to educate people. You will find people who say ‘oh, I don’t eat farmed fish’ but they don’t know what we’re doing. It’s about perception. There’s a lot of really fantastic production happening in salmon and trout.”

Read more about Goatsbridge Trout in the current issue of Fish Farming Expert magazine, available online here.