Richard Darbyshire, left, is presented with Wyre’s award by Steve McLean, head of agriculture & fisheries sourcing at M&S. Photo: SSF

Wyre proves its mettle in M&S awards

Marks & Spencer has named Scottish Sea Farms’ team at Wyre, Orkney as its Outstanding Producer of the Year in its Farming for the Future Awards 2018.

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The 1,909-tonne capacity farm, established by Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) in 2015 to help meet the growing demand for responsibly farmed salmon including M&S Lochmuir salmon, has a dual role.

Not only does it rear its own salmon from smolts to adulthood, but it also acts as a nursery for young salmon headed to neighbouring Eday where conditions are more tidal. Only once the salmon are large enough to thrive in the strong tidal flow are they transferred out to Eday.

No escapes, low mortality

This “Efficiency” was one of four awards criteria met by Wyre. Judges were also impressed at how much the team, led by Phil Boardman who until recently was also farm manager of Eday, had achieved with regards to:

  • Ethics: developing a predator-resistant containment system which has reduced the number of seal attacks and helping to test a new low frequency acoustic deterrent device (ADD) thought to operate outside the normal hearing range of cetaceans such as whales and porpoises
  • Environment: deploying innovative new easy-clean nets which don’t require copper-based anti-fouling, helping preserve the sea’s own balance of this naturally occurring heavy metal
  • Education: investing in the training and development of each staff member to create a team with complementary skills and expertise.

The combined result over the last crop was no escapes, no seals shot, no medicinal bath treatments and low fish mortality.

Phil Boardman: "We have a really great mix of people." Photo: SSF

Boardman said: “Both farm teams – Wyre and Eday – are proud of the results achieved and rightly so as both have worked hand in hand to create the best environments in which to rear our salmon. We have a really great mix of people, some of whom are locals while others have moved into the area bringing new skills and knowledge.”

One such new face is 27-year-old Matthew Jackson from Milton Keynes, who joined SSF as a graduate trainee and worked under Boardman’s tutelage while gaining a Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture to Level 3. He will now take over as farm manager of Wyre, enabling Boardman to focus on Eday.

Exacting standards

The awards presentation took place on the first day of the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston in Edinburgh. Accepting the award on behalf of the Wyre team was SSF’s Orkney regional manager, Richard Darbyshire, who said: “Scottish Sea Farms sets itself exacting standards and the results show in the quality of our product. M&S have actively encouraged these high standards since day one, however to have them recognised with a Farming for the Future Award provides added motivation to keep seeking new and better ways of doing things.”

The award is the latest in a series of M&S Farming for the Future Award wins for SSF, with previous successes including Innovation, Young Producer, Rural Communities, Global Champion of Champions and Plan A in Action.