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Scottish Sea Farms has been recognized at the prestigious M&S Select Farm Awards 2023 for its innovative pilot project aimed at promoting the settlement of seaweed in salmon pens. The groundbreaking trial, conducted at Scallastle in the Sound of Mull, Scotland, involved replacing artificial kelp hides with natural kelp, resulting in enhanced health and welfare for cleaner fish and salmon.

“We’ve always been very open to trialling new technologies and approaches at Scallastle,” said Farm Manager Michael Keenan, adding that this latest project held significant “potential benefits for the cleaner fish and wider marine environment”.

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“To now have this ongoing improvement drive recognized by M&S is a really proud moment for all of the team who have worked so hard,” he added.

Presence of seaweed helped both salmon and cleaner fish thrive, say Scottish Sea Farms

According to a statement from Scottish Sea Farms, scientific studies have highlighted the ability of seaweed to absorb CO2 and eliminate nitrogen and phosphorus from ecosystems. Moreover, kelp’s natural anti-biofouling property makes it remarkably low maintenance compared to plastic hides.

The Scottish Sea Farms team conducted their trial last year, and found that when cultivated together, the seaweed, salmon and cleaner fish, including wrasse and lumpfish, thrived.

“We had one pen with real kelp only, one with plastic hides, and one with both artificial and real kelp, and we noticed a difference quite quickly. The cleaner fish, which we use as a biological control for sea lice, showed a clear preference for the natural kelp,” Keenan explained.

New approach helped to keep sea lice at bay

Keenan further noted that the trial required no interventions for sea lice, such as thermo-delousing, which has been necessary for previous crops. He credited the dedication of fish husbandry expert Sam Wright, who continuously monitored the welfare of the salmon pens and assessed lice numbers, gill conditions, and the feeding habits of cleaner fish.

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Wright has since relocated to the neighbouring farm Bloody Bay and says he is eager to implement the scheme there as well.

Describing the impact of replacing plastic hides with natural kelp, Wright said, “It’s amazing the effect that replacing plastic hides with natural kelp had on the cleaner fish and the salmon but also the versatility of it; we basically just put the ropes out and let it flourish. There are lots of different species of seaweed, so there are plenty of possibilities if Scottish Sea Farms decides to roll this out to other locations.”

Scottish Sea Farms continues to win accolades for innovation

The accolade was announced today at the Royal Highland Show held in Ingliston, Edinburgh. As the exclusive supplier of Marks & Spencer (M&S) Select Farms Scottish salmon, Scottish Sea Farms stood out among a distinguished group of winners at the awards, which celebrate the achievements of leading food producers in the UK.

This marks the fourth time that Scottish Sea Farms has received the Innovation Award, bringing their total number of M&S Awards received over the years to a total of twelve.

About Scottish Sea Farms

Scottish Sea Farms produces 30,000 tons of farmed salmon each year, from sites across Scotland, including a number of award winning sites in Orkney waters. This Scottish quality food product is sold to the UK’s top retailers and restaurants and is exported around the globe.

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