THE Welsh lumpfish farmer, Ocean Matters, has been bought by Mowi Scotland, effective from April 15, the company confirmed today.
The facility, in Penmon, Anglesey, North Wales, has the capacity to produce two million of the cleaner fish, which it has been supplying to the salmon farming industry in Scotland to control sea lice.
Its main customer is Mowi, which has said it would need to deploy more than two million lumpfish by 2020.
Ocean Matters, formed in 2015 on the site of an old turbot farm, harvested its first lumpfish in 2016.
Production manager Daniel Phillips told Fish Farmer in 2017 that the facility had the potential to produce up to six million cleaner fish.
‘If we can do six million fish in one building we can probably do pretty much the whole UK market,’ he said.
Last summer, the company announced it was planning to double production, having secured a £500,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales, plus a further £500,000 from HSBC.
Co-founder and director John Callaghan said then: ‘We’ve had great success to date, but the additional investment capital will allow us to not only continue improving existing systems but also support expansion construction that enables us to address the growing needs of our customers.’
Founder and managing director of Ocean Matters, Werner Forster, said this week: ‘We entered the cleaner fish space a bit late; however, thanks to our committed staff, loyal customers and supportive investors, Ocean Matters became the largest [lumpfish farmers] in the UK and one of the largest worldwide.
‘Our ability to design and build RAS systems, combined with prior RAS operating experience, played a factor as well.
‘Mowi has been Ocean Matters’ largest customer and collaborator since inception. We’re quite pleased to know Ocean Matters has graduated on to the Mowi family, where it will certainly receive all the support required to continue on its current path.’
In 2017, Mowi Scotland bought a neighbouring farm, Anglesey Aquaculture, that once produced sea bass, with the intention of farming wrasse, another cleaner fish used by salmon farmers to combat lice.
Mowi, then Marine Harvest, said at the time that it planned to transform the site into a modern facility for the production of wrasse.
Dougie Hunter, head of cleaner fish and technical services at Mowi Scotland, said in a press release that the Ocean Matters purchase ‘provides us increased capacity for cleaner fish production, with great potential for future development as well’.
‘I would like to welcome the new hatchery staff into the Mowi family,’ he added.
Mowi said last month that sea lice on its farms was now under control. The use of cleaner fish is a major part of the successful strategy, the company said, and part of a larger integrated pest management programme.
Hunter said: ‘We will continue to develop our cleaner fish programme, and assess our future requirements to ensure we are making best use of our production facilities.’
Mowi said it will operate its new acquisition under the Ocean Matters name.
Picture: Mowi head of cleaner fish Dougie Hunter (photo: Mowi Scotland)