Aquaculture trainees are ALBAS winners

SAIC Aquaculture Winner Craig Grounds with Jill Couto-Phoenix of SAIC

Trainees from Scottish Sea Farms and Cooke Aquaculture were among the winners at the ALBAS (Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills) on Thursday night.

Craig Grounds (pictured above, with Jill Couto-Phoenix), from Oban in Argyll and Bute, won Aquaculture Learner of the Year. He completed his Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture at UHI Shetland while working as an Assistant Site Manager at Scottish Sea Farms.

Stuart Lavender Mossbank in Shetland was runner-up Aquaculture Learner of the Year. He completed his Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture at UHI Shetland while working as a Site Assistant at Cooke Aquaculture.

The awards were organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries, and took place at the Crieff Hydro Hotel in Perthshire on Thursday 7 March.

Over 200 finalists, event supporters, employers, training providers and industry leaders attended the award ceremony, including Jim Fairlie MSP, Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity.

Craig Grounds said: “What an honour to pick up an ALBAS award. Being out in nature, weather and the physicality of the work really appeals to me, and winning an award for it is a dream.

He added: “It’s great to have the hard work recognised and to represent Scottish Sea Farms. I couldn’t have achieved this without the support of, first, Andrew MacDougall and Peter Coull, and now Colin Maxwell, my manager at Shuna.

“They have all got behind me, given me time to study and wanted me to do well, as did my tutor Stuart Fitzsimmons at UHI Shetland, who nominated me.”

Lantra ALBAS winners, Crieff, March 2024

Rural skills recognised

The awards were presented by the evening’s host, the “Red Shepherdess”, otherwise known as Hannah Jackson. Industry awards were made for agriculture, aquaculture, equine, environmental conservation, game and wildlife, horticulture, land-based engineering, trees and timber and veterinary nursing.

As well as prizes for Overall Winner, Runner-up and Modern Apprentice of the Year, there were also awards for Higher Education, School Pupil and Secondary Schools, CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies), a Mentor award for inspirational tutor, the Tam Tod Trophy and the Anna Murray Award for Partnership Working.

Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie said: “It was great to witness all the hard work of the winners and nominees acknowledged by these awards. The breadth of skills across all aspects of our land-based and aquaculture sectors is truly impressive and vital to continuing to support and celebrate rural life in Scotland.”

The winners and runners-up for ALBAS 2024 were chosen by an independent judging panel made up of influential figures from across the land-based and aquaculture sector, chaired by Rebecca Dawes, Agriculture and Rural Communicator at Jane Craigie Marketing and trustee of RSABI and The Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.

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