Gael Force Group to develop offshore pen for exposed location high energy sites

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Inverness and Moray aquaculture equipment supply firm secures under half a million pounds of public funding to help move industry towards high energy sites.

Gael Force Group’s latest project is to develop an integrated offshore pen to operate in more exposed locations “where deep waters and rough seas represent a more challenging environment for both fish farmers and design engineers,” according to a press release.

The project will be boosted by GDP 457 thousand of public sector funding from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The new was announced on Friday by Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy Secretary, during a visit to the company’s Inverness office.

The pen is being developed for the wider industry in general, not for any one specific producer. The pen design will support a move to higher energy, exposed sites that require more structurally robust pens that are specifically designed to withstand those sea conditions.

Designed to exceed the detailed requirements of the Technical Standard for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture, the new pen will increase the current pen size from a 120m circumference to 160-200m. With nets deepened from 15m to 20m, this will increase growing volumes from around 17,000 cubic metres to 40,000 cubic metres and beyond.

Confirming the funding, Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing said:

“Scottish salmon was the UK’s largest food export in 2017, and it makes a vital contribution to the local economies of some of Scotland’s most remote and vulnerable communities, providing high-value employment in many cases. Innovation and investment in the sector to ensure it has a long-term, sustainable future is key to its continued growth and to achieving the industry’s ambitions.

Stewart Graham, Gael Force Group’s Managing Director, said:

“Innovation is at the core of our strategy and this investment from HIE and the Accelerating Aquaculture Innovation fund supports us in our drive to deliver a highly innovative product built on the foundations of strong R&D and close collaboration with our customers. Not only will our new offshore pen reinforce a move towards higher energy sites and unlock Scottish Aquaculture’s huge growth potential, it will help spearhead our export initiative and enable us to create job opportunities here at our base in Inverness, and at our pen-building facilities in Argyll.”

The AAI fund was launched in 2017 as a 30-month pilot programme, led by HIE, and delivered in partnership with Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC). It offers SMEs in the Aquaculture Supply Chain in the Highlands and Islands the opportunity of match funding to help commercialise innovative new processes, products, services or technologies.