Hope in salmon RAS pilot despite fish loss

THE team behind the land based salmon farm in Machrihanish on Scotland’s west coast remain confident in their technology despite the loss of all fish at the site.

Arve Gravdal, of the Norwegian company Niri, told Fish Farmer that they had ‘met the milestones technology wise’ in Scotland but a problem with water contamination had forced them to close down the farm about two months ago.

Nevertheless, plans are already afoot, with new funding, to continue the project, both in Norway and in Scotland.

‘We stopped the project a little bit before we should. But the big picture is we met the milestones on the project there,’ said Gravdal (pictured).

‘We took out the fish a couple of months ago. The fish were market size, and we took them out and froze down the lot but we stopped the project there.’

It appears that chemicals got into the water supply of the recirculation system during the repair of the main water inlet, which had broken. Gravdal said several of the fish were around 4-5kg, and agreed this was a disaster for the pilot farm.

A year ago, some 26,000 smolts had been stocked in the 1,600 cubic metre tank, housed in a hangar at the former Nato air base in Machrihanish, near Campbeltown. Niri claimed its system was unique and could be rolled out on an industrial scale around the world.

Gravdal, who spoke at an RAS seminar at Aquaculture Europe in Edinburgh last year, remains committed to land based salmon farming. He told a Radio 4 programme, broadcast on October 24 but recorded earlier, that the aim was to produce 40,000 tonnes ‘when the technology kicks in’.

Apparently, Tom Heap, who presented the BBC programme – Fish Farms of the Future – visited Machrihanish and peered into the tank just before the whole project came to an end. He made no mention of any problems with the fish during his broadcast.

Gravdal takes heart from the fact that the new Norwegian backers – believed to be Andenes – saw the ‘very nice’ Niri fish and have decided to invest regardless of the outcome of the Scottish pilot.

‘Despite what happened, they are investing significantly in Norway now with the same technology.’

A Danish engineering company is also involved in taking the project forward, and there is academic collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland and Queen’s University in Belfast.

‘We are working on the project, and the engineering template we have we can use in Scotland too so there will be a solution over there.’

Gravdal, now based in Maloy, north of Bergen, believes the new template, with improved hydraulics, could be brought back to Scotland as early as next year.

Asked if he was confident he could make it work next time, he said: ‘It does work now; we’re going commercial full-time, big time, both in Norway and in Scotland. We are confident and so are the financial backers.’



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