The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has begun trials of an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) system at its award winning Loch Roag site on Lewis.
In conjunction with its salmon farming operation, the company is now introducing seaweed on to its mooring ropes to achieve a greater natural balance in the management of the water area.
The trials have been developed with the Scottish Association of Marine Science as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to protect the local environment and in time, are expected to form the basis of full scale commercial production of complementary stock.
SSC carried out an extensive scoping exercise before the pilot scheme at Loch Roag was given the green light, including a fact finding trip to Newfoundland, Canada and collaboration with Marine Scotland. The Crown Estate and the Western Isles Council Planners have also been kept abreast of plans.
IMTA extracts nutrients reducing their flow in to the water systems and SSC see such initiatives working alongside other environmental measures such as its strategy for ‘single generation, single loch, synchronised fallow’ and feed developments.
The trials now underway will be assessed over the next three months for the growth rate of the seaweed. If successful, the company will then consider the commercial potential for seaweed crops as part of the company’s wider business interests.
The aspirations for the project include collaborations with Hebridean Seaweed to supply kelp and with the local community to support the development of an environmentally sustainable anaerobic digester.
Mussel production may be introduced at a later stage as part of a whole ‘eco-system’ approach.
Brian Floyd, production director at The Scottish Salmon Company, who is heading up the IMTA project said: “IMTA has been shown to have a very positive effect on water quality, by eliminating excessive nutrients. In our pilot scheme we are introducing seaweed, which thrives around salmon farms. The trials will help us better understand the environmental, technological and economic implications of developing IMTA further.
“Bringing in innovative measures to increase the environmental and economic sustainability of our operations is paramount to the company’s success. IMTA is one of a number of initiatives we are pursuing as part of the company’s drive towards environmental excellence.”
Walter Speirs has been working as a consultant with SSC on the project. He added: “IMTA is a more holistic use of an area of water as it encourages the production of ‘crops’ that complement each other in the natural environment. The seaweed that The Scottish Salmon Company is introducing at its trial sites absorbs the nitrates in the water and therefore manages excessive nutrients naturally. It is about getting balance through natural processes.”
Dr Kenny Black, of SAMS said: "The concept of IMTA has been around for a long time but has recently come of age with work in Canada, Scotland and elsewhere which has piloted the co-culture of macro-algae and invertebrates with salmon to provide secondary crops at the same time as recycling nutrients and carbon.
“We are delighted to be working with the SSC in Lochs Roag and Fyne where there is great potential to pioneer IMTA at a commercial scale in Scotland. Mussel culture is a well- established Scottish industry but recent work at SAMS and elsewhere has shown that seaweed culture has great potential to become a significant new industry providing sources of a wide range of products including food, speciality fine chemicals and marine biomass for energy production."
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