MARINE Harvest’s new £26.5 million recirculation hatchery in Inchmore, Glenmoriston, was a ‘magnificent investment’ for Scotland and the future of the aquaculture sector, said rural affairs minister Fergus Ewing as he officially opened the building this morning.
In front of local councillors, members of the community, the construction team, and the Fort William based company’s staff, present and past, he said the new facility, along with the feed plant on Skye and the processing factory in Rosyth, were ‘clear demonstrations of the confidence Marine Harvest have in Scotland’.
‘What a happy day, a beautiful day, it’s a great day for the west Highlands,’ said the minister, adding that the hatchery, which will produce 800 tonnes of fish a year, would contribute directly to the further sustainability of the sector.
‘As we know, there have been recent challenges and recently the industry and the Scottish government have announced a fish health framework. We’re working as a team; we are already overcoming many of the challenges and I’m confident we’ll overcome the remainder.
‘I also think it’s relevant to say that the investment here…will help sustain the local economy, increasing the employment to 18 jobs, excellent jobs, well remunerated and interesting jobs, and contributing directly to producing the most nutritious food of all, namely high quality Scottish salmon that is revered around the world.’
John Richmond, Marine Harvest’s freshwater manager and the brains behind both this plant and its sister facility in Lochailort, said it would produce just under half of Marine Harvest Scotland’s fish.
‘Over 12 million fish will start their lives here and I hope that what we have provided will be a comfortable home for them before they move on to our seawater production facilities,’ he said.
The first eggs arrived in the new Inchmore before Christmas and production had started before construction was fully complete. The staff, said Richmond, had done ‘a great job working through this difficult time to protect the health and welfare of our fish’.
Marine Harvest Scotland managing director Ben Hadfield also praised the staff, and acknowledged the role played by the man who built the original hatchery on the site 40 years ago, and who was invited back to see its replacement.
‘Today is a very proud day for us – the team here and all Marine Harvest have done an exceptional job. I’m very pleased that Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary, is opening this for us. He’s a strong supporter of the industry and a strong supporter of sustainable growth, and making salmon and the economy of Scotland everything they can be.
‘I’ve just been introduced to a gentleman called Peter Crook who I haven’t met before. He founded the first hatchery here in 1978 and, first of all, I applaud him for picking a great location.
‘It was a great hatchery and performed extremely well for us in during that time and I’m sorry that in the end we had to bulldoze it but we needed the space.’
Crook, former chief engineer at Marine Harvest, said his Inchmore had been built for quarter of a million smolts, in the days when the goal was to produce 1,000 tonnes of salmon a year. It was producing around 40 tonnes before making way for the new plant.
‘This was by far the biggest hatchery in Scotland then,’ he said, as he was about to enter its vast successor, also now the country’s biggest hatchery.
Inchmore mark two will produce its 800 tonnes of fish a year in four batches, including five to six million fry and five to six million smolts.
Currently, there are over seven million salmon stocked, and hatchery manager Owen Davies said the first batch, of about one million parr, were due to be graded and vaccinated in mid-July and transferred to freshwater loch sites.
Then, around November, the first smolts from Inchmore – about one million at around 100g – will be transported by lorry to Kyle, then by well boat to farm sites.
The Inchmore fish will mostly supply the company’s high energy sites, such as Mull and the new farm being built at Rum.
Inchmore covers 13,500m2 – the expanse of two football pitches – and holds 4.6 million litres of water in the fish tanks (two Olympic size swimming pools), while there are 17.7 million litres (seven swimming pools) in total in the RAS system.
This vast volume of water is almost completely recirculated, with only 1.5 per cent new water volume per day.
Seven miles of process pipe are laid underground and there are another seven miles of building services pipe.
Inchmore has been constructed with some 9,000m3 of concrete, most of it batched off site, and 730 tonnes of structural steel.
Suspended above all this technical mastery is the visitors’ gallery, a glass encased corridor accessed directly from the foyer and running almost the entire length of the building. This enables visitors to watch the process without going through the disinfection procedure.
The fry and smolt tanks can be viewed from here and there is also a platform looking out through glass on to the vaccination area.
Waste is treated until it forms a paste and is then distributed to a network of local farmers.
Every stage of the process has built-in back up in the event of anything going wrong. If there is an issue they can shut down an area and carry on operating.
There are four RAS systems for egg and alevin incubation, and four RAS systems for the fry and smolt, Fry A and B and Smolt A and B.
RAS systems have mechanical filtration using drum filters, fixed bed biofiltration and fine solids capture, trickling tower biofiltration and CO2 degassing, ozone injection for dissolved solids removal and oxygen injection.
As Peter Crook said, the ‘raison d’etre’ of Inchmore mark one had been to meet production growth, and the new hatchery will be doing just the same.
Picture: Fergus Ewing, Ben Hadfield and John Richmond