Processing supervisor Nicole McAleer with her award from SSF customer Marks and Spencer.

Salmon processing supervisor nets award from M&S

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A Scottish Sea Farms processing supervisor has won the inaugural Emerging Talent award at the M&S Select Farm Awards 2024, announced yesterday at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh.

Nicole McAleer saw off competition from other leading food producers to scoop the prize, one of five awarded in celebration of the Marks and Spencer supply chain in Scotland.

The Emerging Talent award, open to anyone aged 35 and under, champions those who are positive role models, making an exceptional contribution to their sector.

Learning the ropes

McAleer joined the salmon producer over four years ago as a trainee processing supervisor at South Shian near Oban before progressing to her current position.

Originally from Omagh in Northern Ireland, McAleer said she didn’t know what a salmon farm was when she first moved to Oban.

Spending her first six months with Scottish Sea Farms learning the ropes out on the floor, she can now oversee the entire South Shian processing facility, which has the capacity to process up to 140 tonnes of salmon per shift.

From left: The Scottish Government's Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, Nicole McAleer, M&S head of trade Sue Campbell and M&S head of agriculture & fisheries Steve McLean at the Royal Highland Show at Ingleston, Edinburgh.

“Considering I had no fish background whatsoever – my dad is a chicken farmer – before working at Scottish Sea Farms, or of running a facility of any type, to be nominated by my boss, four years in, was a really good feeling,” said McAleer.

“To then go on to win the category is further recognition that I’m doing something right. It’s like a big pat on the back.

“This job isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s ever-changing and you just have to get stuck in. But we’ve got an amazing team and I now see my long-term future in salmon farming.”

Appetite to learn

SSF’s primary processing manager Donald MacAulay, who nominated McAleer for the award, said: “Nicole’s commitment to the job, and her appetite to learn and grow, have been instrumental in shaping the calm, capable processing supervisor that she is today.

“This award win underlines that it’s not only Scottish Sea Farms that recognises the value of Nicole’s hard work but our customers too.”

With Scottish Sea Farms’ relationship with M&S now spanning 20 years, the award brings the total number of accolades received from the retailer to 13.

These include awards for Innovation (2023, 2019, 2017), Low Carbon Farming Pioneer (2022), Outstanding Producer (2018), Young Producer of the Year (2016, 2014), Rural Communities (2016), M&S Champion of Champions (2015), Livestock (2014), Apprenticeship Diploma (2014) and Plan A ‘Future of Farming’ (2010).