Carradale farm dishes up fish for a decade

Farm manager Warren Harvey with the new AKVA barge.
Farm manager Warren Harvey with the new AKVA barge.

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In the 10 years since it was first stocked, the salmon farm at Carradale has produced enough fish to fill more than 100 million plates.

Mowi’s Carradale South sea site is currently in its sixth production cycle, having already completed five crops since it was established in 2010, with each generation growing at sea for 16 to 20 months.

The farm was a pioneering project as it was one of the first in Scotland to be situated in a more ‘high energy’ location, rather than the sheltered lochs that have been more traditional locations for aquaculture sites over the last 50 years.

The Carradale North group was added to the farm in June 2016, doubling the number of cages to 20, meaning the farm can now hold up to 5,000 tonnes of salmon.

The total volume of salmon harvested from the site over the last decade is 29,394 tonnes, meaning Carradale has now produced the equivalent of more than 100 million 120g meal portions.

Assistant manager Scott Campbell during a stock inspection.
Assistant manager Scott Campbell during a stock inspection.

Since 2012, when the company’s records begin, operating costs at the site have been £71.8 million, much of which has been spent with local service suppliers.

Mowi has contributed to numerous Carradale initiatives including the building of the harbour slipway, the Great Carradale Canter run, the installation of a defibrillator, the village hall and the community playground.

The Carradale site has hosted Campbeltown RNLI as part of an exercise to give the lifeboat crew more of an insight into fish farming and what equipment is at the farm that may be of assistance for future emergencies.

Carradale Primary School was to have been visited by Mowi’s new ‘salmon wagon’ this summer but the COVID-19 pandemic meant the event had to be cancelled. Mowi made a cash donation to the school in lieu of attendance. The school children have previously visited the farm to speak to farmers and learn about fish farming and to consider aquaculture as a career.

They also enjoyed a visit to the site’s new 650 tonne state-of-the-art panoramic feeding barge, which was specially designed and built for the site, replacing the previous 400 tonne unit.

Carradale’s barge is the largest in Mowi’s fleet and was built by AKVA Group Scotland Limited in Estonia in 2018. It provides excellent facilities on board as well as a great view from the feed room overlooking the site.

Farm manager Warren Harvey travelled to the Estonian capital Tallinn twice to view the barge’s progress as it was being built and discuss its requirements.

He said: ‘In my seven or so years as manager at Carradale, this was one of my highlights. Having state-of-the-art equipment, tailor-made to suit your farm’s needs, is so valuable in running a successful farm.’

Further investment at the site includes the recent improvement of the protective bird netting system to a new fiberglass support system, which can better withstand stormy seas and is less visible to passing yachts and onlookers than the previous equipment.

High definition cameras monitor fish behaviour – from above and below the water’s surface – enabling Carradale farmers to convert feed to salmon in the most efficient way.

Assistant manager Simon MacDonald monitors fish feeding.
Assistant manager Simon MacDonald monitors fish feeding.

When the site was first established, there were six members of staff. To operate the site today, 18 staff members work in shifts. The company’s average annual salary for its staff is £34,000.

The Carradale farm’s ‘high energy’ location has brought with it some challenges – the Beast from the East storm that battered the UK in late winter 2018 killed thousands of its small salmon. As a response, the company upgraded its cages at the site to the new AKVA PLS 500 system, which includes lifting winches and robust anchoring to make the pens more stable and better suited to withstand the most extreme weather.

The site holds a number of certificates and endorsements and an audit by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) – an independent organisation founded by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature that certifies environmentally and socially responsible seafood – has just been completed at Carradale North. Mowi is the first company in the UK to be certified to the ASC salmon standard.

Warren added: ‘Fish farming doesn’t come without its challenges but it is a rewarding career. It has been a pleasure watching the site expand over the last decade and we look forward to future development and working with the community to bring to fruition a number of planned improvements in the area.’

Mowi is proposing to collaborate with the community to dredge the harbour – something which hasn’t been done for about 40 years – and hopes to build a pontoon in the harbour to accommodate the farm’s boats and vessels and to improve safety for staff, with the ability for locals to use the moorage as well.