Graham Smith is encouraged by his first six months as UK and Ireland general manager of ScaleAQ. Photo: ScaleAQ.

Looking back, thinking ahead: Graham Smith

Fish Farming Expert has asked individuals connected to the salmon farming industry about their year, and what they hope for in 2021.We continue the series today with Graham Smith, former Shetland regional production manager for Scottish Sea Farms, who joined aquaculture supplier ScaleAQ as UK and Ireland general manager in July.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has made 2020 a difficult year for many businesses and organisations. How has it affected yours?

We pride ourselves on having a local presence on farms and obviously the travel restrictions have made it a little tricky this year. However, our engineers have worked tirelessly to ensure that, in spite of the pandemic, all our clients have been catered to and I am proud of my team’s continued focus and commitment. I am happy that our revenue this year is in line with budget and only slightly behind 2019, even with the current difficulties, so overall I am pleased with development of the UK operation, and look forward to building on that success in 2021.

What other factors have had a bearing on your business?

Taking over the management of the UK company in the middle of a pandemic has been both challenging and restrictive, particularly not being able to see clients across Scotland and Ireland. Meetings via online forums have been vital in many ways, but I feel that a personal approach is so much more valuable and I am looking forward to being able to travel to see our clients face-to-face again. This will prove most beneficial for me personally, as I had to hit the ground running, but without being able to supply a totally personal touch. A local presence is vital to building a strong relationship with our clients.

What was the most significant event of 2020 for your company?

2020 has been our best year for barge sales in Scotland, which is very encouraging. We are seeing interest from new geographic areas where previously we have not had a presence, and I am delighted with this. We also completed our first turnkey package for Scottish Sea Farms in Orkney. As 2020 ends and we look to towards 2021, we see strong activity in both the Scottish and Irish markets, but we also see a positive trend globally as we go into the new year, with some exciting opportunities ahead.

What would you like to see happen in 2021 to help the Scottish fish farming industry thrive?

I would like to see the focus being maintained regarding the  streamlining of the regulatory system, to allow the industry to remain competitive within a global marketplace. I would also like to see more collaboration across the whole industry to drive forward new innovation and technology that will allow the sector to grow in line with Scottish government aspirations. The new Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation’s Sustainability Charter will direct future aquaculture expansion, and these environmental and fish welfare requirements can only serve to improve and strengthen the industry as a whole.