Young Aquaculture Society members get taste of life on the farms

Young Aquaculture Society visit to Scottish Sea Farms 3 July

Members of the newly formed Young Aquaculture Society (YAS) turned out in force yesterday at Scottish Sea Farms’ west coast facilities for a deep dive into how farmed salmon are raised.

The day-long visit, the first of its kind since YAS was officially launched by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar at Aquaculture UK in Aviemore in May, began with a tour of Scottish Sea Farms’ Barcaldine Hatchery near Oban where the group learned about the incubation process and how salmon are nurtured from eggs to smolts.

This was followed by a Q&A session with the company’s Head of Sustainability and Development, Anne Anderson, focusing on the synergy between fish health and responsible farming practices.

The 19-strong party, made up of young professionals from across the supply chain, research institutes, universities, producers, and sector body Salmon Scotland, were then hosted out on nearby farm Charlotte’s Bay.

There, under the guidance of long-serving Farm Manager Stephen Woods, the group were shown the camera-monitored feeding systems, fish welfare measures, and technology used to monitor water quality.

Completing the salmon lifecycle, the final leg of the inaugural tour took in Scottish Sea Farms’ processing and packing facility at South Shian, where Head of Processing Donald Buchanan took the group through the company’s high-welfare approach to humane harvesting.

Andrew Richardson, Founder and President of YAS and Technical and Standards Manager for Salmon Scotland, said the visit offered a valuable insight into the salmon farming sector.

“Because YAS is open to all working in and around the UK’s aquaculture ecosystem, many of our members have not been on a salmon farm before.

“So, we value any opportunities like this for education, professional development, and networking. Scottish Sea Farms, one of the country’s leading producers, has been very supportive of these values and this milestone visit has embodied them all.”

Scottish Sea Farms Head of Freshwater Rory Conn agreed that a first-hand view was the best way to learn more about the sector.

“To really understand salmon farming, nothing beats talking to the people who care for the fish daily, and witnessing their level of knowledge, experience, skill and passion.

“At Barcaldine, we have RAS technology at the cutting edge of aquaculture development and the team always take immense pride in sharing their work here with visitors.

“We want to give people the opportunity to form their own opinions about what they’re seeing, so the more questions they ask and the more inquisitive they are, the better use of time it is for us. In fact, we like the visits that run over time because it means that everyone is really engaged, as today’s group was.”

As for what the young ambassadors took from the day, University of Glasgow PhD Researcher Will Barr, who is working to understand gill associated microbiomes and their role within gill disease in Atlantic salmon, said: “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so the YAS visit presented the perfect opportunity. It was done so well on the day, with insights into each key area.”

Postdoctoral research fellow Thomas Clark, who studies genomics and immunology in aquaculture at The Roslin Institute, added: “It’s really helpful to see the animals in real-life, rather than simply working with clear tubes in a laboratory setting.”

YAS is a free-to-join network uniting young UK aquaculture professionals. It aims to enhance communication, provide support, and foster a platform for showcasing potential and discovering career opportunities.

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