Salmon Farming and Ocean Kinetics

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June 26th 2018

We were pleased to contribute to the recent Scottish parliamentary enquiry into the impact of salmon farming in Scotland. There were numerous interesting submissions and a wealth of reports, statistics and information to mull over and I imagine some of it must have made for heavy eyelids for those with little connection to the industry.

However in Shetland we experienced the first pioneering attempts to farm salmon in the late seventies and our islands have witnessed the growth of salmon aquaculture from those embryonic days of trial and error into the robust, mature global industry it is now.

It’s fascinating to look back to those early days and plot the critical points on the roadmap that charted the peaks and troughs as the industry evolved away from local ownership into mergers, acquisitions and ultimately condensed into the custody of a handful of major global companies.

We believe a key to the successful establishment of the industry in these isles was the nature of living and working in Shetland. Historically, in order to make a living here people had to be multi skilled – crofters had to be fishermen; tools, nets, boats, farming equipment all had to be made and repaired by hand. Fish had to be caught, prepared and preserved, livestock had to be reared, slaughtered and stored and crops had to be cultivated, grown and harvested.

At Ocean Kinetics we use this indigenous conditioning to our benefit and very seldom have single skilled tradesmen working for us. Our ability to be multi skilled and operate across different sectors isn’t accidental – these traits are born into Shetlanders through necessity; problem solving was an essential requirement of life here. This flexibility and adaptability allows us to serve clients differently from some of our competitors and we now build this into our staff training and development so that this ethos continues to run through the company. This is all due to starting as a business working the Shetland way.

This aptitude for crofters/fishermen to be multi skilled helped the salmon industry in Shetland overcome many challenges in the early years. Remote from mainland services and support these early pioneers had to find innovative solutions for producing and growing their fish. All this with no economies of scale and often only working with a couple of cages alongside the croft.

Unfortunately, after initial success, the industry grew in fits and spurts. Farmed salmon wasn’t the global commodity it is now and producers were at the whim of the cyclical nature of the European markets which caused serious price fluctuations that the smaller operators simply couldn’t withstand.

In another of the industries we operate in Jim Ratcliffe is Britain’s richest man and arguably our most successful businessman. He's one of the owners of Ineos, now a world leading petrochemicals company. The key to their success is acquisition and one of their drivers is to look for companies who operate in cyclical business and buy at the bottom of the cycle. I’m sure he would have loved to have been in Shetland during those troublesome years of salmon business. As it was, other larger international salmon companies saw the opportunity and subsequently the Shetland industry is now shared by Cooke Aquaculture, Grieg Seafood and Scottish Sea farms.

Although it can be nostalgic to lament the demise of those smaller producers these companies have embraced the heritage of operating in Shetland and employ large numbers of multi skilled Shetland based men and women to apply the same exacting and innovative standards of husbandry that originated from those early pioneers back when it all began.

As a company supporting the salmon industry in Shetland we see innovation on a weekly basis – whether its eradicating algae, disease or parasites, the Shetland Industry is perpetually looking at improving husbandry and production standards.

At Ocean Kinetics we're delighted be part of this and have recently developed and delivered another innovative solution to one of our clients. Aeration of salmon cages is a relatively recent concept for seawater farms. By introducing targeted levels of oxygen to specific areas of the cage we can help stimulate feeding and growth, mitigate harmful planktons, reduce parasite infection and address algae build up. Working closely with clients we've now developed a full turnkey system which can be quickly installed on any seawater salmon farm and bring immediate results.

Humanity needs food and protein and unless population growth halts there are very few solutions for feeding the world into the future. Despite its critic’s, farmed salmon provides safe and healthy nutrition. In rural locations such as Shetland, with a rich maritime history, we've learned not to fear what can come from the sea but to embrace it.

Please click here for more information on our aquaculture services.

Derek Leask

26th June 2018

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