Scottish Sea Farms scores awards hat-trick

Special award: Fish Farmer's William Dowds with the Fish Site's Rob Fletcher (picture: Angus Blackburn)

IT was Scottish Sea Farms’ night at Aquaculture Awards 2019 yesterday, with the company picking up three coveted prizes at a special ceremony in Edinburgh.

And the evening also saw Fish Farmer’s William Dowds receive special recognition for his contribution to aquaculture.

First up for Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) was the Applied Research Breakthrough award, which Scottish Sea Farms shared with Mowi, BioMar, the Institute of Aquaculture at Stirling and SAIC (Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre) for a joint cleaner fish project.

This successfully closed the cycle for captive ballan wrasse breeding for the first time, at Machrihanish hatchery on Scotland’s west coast.

Scottish Sea Farms also scooped the Diversity award, presented to the employer that has done the most to promote diversity in the work place.

The salmon farmer has encouraged increasing numbers of women to reach senior roles in the company.

And SSF regional manager Richard Darbyshire was named the People’s Choice winner, voted by his industry peers and beating competition from Ace Aquatec’s Nathan Pyne-Carter, among others.

Darbyshire has been hailed for transforming his company’s performance in Orkney since taking on the role more than ten years ago.

Other triumphs at the awards, held in Dynamic Earth and attended by Scottish salmon farmers, suppliers, academics and students, as well as overseas guests from Norway to Canada, included Hatch, which won the International Impact award.

The Bergen based aquaculture accelerator has helped to commercialise several technology start-ups in the sector.

Among these is Manolin, which went on to win the Most Promising New Entrant for developing software that helps farmers optimise treatments and improve fish health.

Sharing the award was Mowi’s Clara McGhee, a farm technician who has chronicled her daily life on the farm in a blog on the Fish Site, part of 5m Publishing, organiser of last night’s awards.

SSF’s Richard Darbyshire collects his People’s Choice award from Campbell Morrison of Europharma, which sponsored the prize

Another talented Mowi new entrant, Kendal Hunter, who manages her own farm at Loch Alsh, was also a finalist.

The Sustainability award went to Bioretur, a Norwegian company that has pioneered a system of converting fish waste into fuel and fertiliser.

The company beat an international shortlist that reflected the decision of the organisers to open up the awards to global nominations for the first time.

Canadian company XpertSea was awarded the prize for Technical Innovation for its Growth Platform, an automated data collection device that provides farming insights to shrimp producers. Co-founder and CEO Valerie Robitaille came to Scotland from Quebec City to pick up the award.

Marks & Spencer received the Animal Welfare award in recognition of its Welfare Outcome Measure Programme.

The retailer’s aquaculture manager, Patrick Blow, had explained earlier, at a seminar held before the awards, how the programme measures farming operations of salmon, among other species, to improve the animals’ welfare.

The final honour of the evening acknowledged the contribution to the industry by Fish Farmer’s William Dowds.

Former Fish Farmer editor Rob Fletcher, now a senior editor at the Fish Site, presented William with a bottle of whisky on behalf of his aquaculture friends and colleagues.

The host of the Aquaculture Awards, now an annual event, was Scottish broadcaster Arlene Stuart.

The 2020 Aquaculture Awards will take place at Aquaculture UK, being held in Aviemore from May 19-21.