Norwegian breeding company acquires Scotland hatchery

Hatchery International staff
March 01, 2019
By Hatchery International staff
Head of fish health at Scottish Sea Farms, Ralph Bickerdike (left) and managing director at AquaGen Scotland Andrew Reeve
Head of fish health at Scottish Sea Farms, Ralph Bickerdike (left) and managing director at AquaGen Scotland Andrew Reeve Photo credit: Scottish Sea Farms.
AquaGen has signed a deal to buy Scottish Sea Farms' freshwater hatchery at Holywood near Dumfries in Scotland. This is a long-term strategic investment that will further improve fish welfare in Scotland, according to a statement from AquaGen.

The acquisition follows a successful trial production of eggs under licence in the fall of 2018 and will enable the company to offer Scotland's salmon farmers a reliable supply of eggs from locally farmed AquaGen broodstock, increasing food security.

It will also facilitate a targeted breeding programme to identify the genetic and biological traits most suited to performing well in Scottish farming conditions, resulting in robust fish stocks and a high-quality product for market.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing welcomed the new business deal, saying it signifies the aquaculture community's confidence in "doing business in Scotland."

"AquaGen's investment speaks volumes of the confidence from the sector of doing business in Scotland and supports the aims of Scotland's 10 Year Farmed Fish Health Framework, helping to improve the security of Scotland's ova supply."

In a statement, AquaGen AS chief executive officer Nina Santi stressed her company's commitment to providing customers in Scotland a secure supply of eggs. "This latest investment opens up the possibility of us supplying these eggs from locally-grown broodstock.

"We're planning a series of upgrades to the existing facilities at Holywood, using Scottish suppliers as much as possible, then we will go into full production later this year. Deliveries will be from November to June initially; longer-term we hope to extend to year-round production of up to 50 million eggs annually," Santi said.

Overseeing production and research will be AquaGen Scotland, which was established in the fall of 2017, headquartered at the Stirling University Innovation Park. The team is composed of eight staff – four of whom are based full-time at Holywood – with a further two new roles expected to be created at the hatchery as production develops, the company said.

Unlike coastal hatcheries, the four-acre inland hatchery at Holywood uses groundwater drawn from a series of bore holes; a system that is known for its biosecurity, quality and constant temperatures, and is therefore well-suited to egg production.

Scottish Sea Farms' head of fish health Ralph Bickerdike said, "This is a hugely promising development for Scotland's salmon farmers, bringing world-leading breeding expertise and technologies to bear on home-grown broodstock so that their offspring can be adapted to specifically suit the Scottish marine environment. This, in turn, will bring a whole host of further improvements in terms of fish welfare and product quality."

According to AquaGen, in the four decades since the first commercial-scale salmon farms were established, genetic advances in AquaGen strain has included: reducing time that farmed salmon spend at sea, thereby minimising exposure to the natural challenges of the marine environment; more efficient use of feed per kilo of meat produced; greater resistance to common fish diseases; increased survival rates; higher quality of product for market.

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