In-line with the emerging trend in Scottish aquaculture — a phasing out of the old and small in favour of the large and better managed — equipment maker, Gael Force Group, is building the larger fish pens salmon companies might soon need.
The move looks to be a response to observations made recently by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee — that biomass limits had no real relation to sunken seabed sediments — and the industry’s own idea, that larger sites made it easier to avoid contact with wild fish. Both officialdom and the industry have already begun to see the end of many smaller fish farms place “in harm’s way”.
“In general, there has been a trend to larger pens and this size range has been missing from the Fusion Marine portfolio,” Gael Force Group marketing manager, Marc Wilson, told SalmonBusiness in an email. Gael Force, having just acquired Fusion Marine, is ready to scale-up.
“Prior to the acquisition of Fusion, Gael Force had identified a gap in the market in Scotland,” Wilson said, adding that the company is now looking to build pens of 200 meters in diameter.
There’s plenty evidence to suggest the Scottish salmon-farming industry is ready to move into larger facilities, even offshore. The Scottish Salmon Company recently said it was already fallowing smaller farms in favour of larger pens, and the heads of Scotland’s largest aquaculture companies recently told the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy that they see larger sites as a way to improve their environmental record, both on the seabed and on fish.
Less is more
“We believe that having fewer, larger sites would improve lice control through less connectivity and the potential to use more consolidated lice control techniques,” the industry heads wrote in a joint letter. They included Colin Blair, CEO of Cooke Aquaculture; Gilpin Bradley; CEO of Wester Ross Salmon; Paddy Campbell, managing director of BioMar UK and Jim Gallagher, CEO of Scottish Sea Farms.
Improving “consolidated lice control” appears to be one of the reasons for designing new larger pens.
“Current circular pen designs have little or no integration with other pen (fixtures), services, processes or equipment built into them. There would seem to be scope for considering … whether a more holistic design was achievable,” Wilson told SalmonBusiness.
With its new scale, Gael Force could be ready to offer some of the new fish-health ideas under development. Sea-lice skirts to ward off the fearsome pests; traps to capture and recycle sludge; fish-counting; feeding and other innovations.
For now, Gael Force is reviewing its pen range and lining-up more R&D for the new pen designs. It’s understood to be in addition to GBP 1 million they’ve set aside to innovate.
“Work is already underway to develop a new, larger integrated offshore pen which will support a move towards higher energy sites, as the industry seeks to unlock Scottish aquaculture’s huge growth potential,” the company said.