The RAS hatchery at Barcaldine cost £58 million Photo: Scottish Sea FarmsThe RAS hatchery at Barcaldine cost £58 million Photo: Scottish Sea Farms

The first smolts reared at Scottish Sea Farms’ new RAS hatchery at Barcaldine have now been harvested and delivered to customers around the world.

The smolts had an average weight of 178g when put to sea – more than double the weight Scottish Sea Farms would expect to achieve via conventional hatchery methods – and required two months less in the marine environment to reach market size.

Freshwater Manager Pål Tangvik said that a recirculating aquaculture system gives greater control over water quality, oxygen levels, temperature, light and speed of flow. “This creates a more stable environment compared to conventional flow-through hatcheries which, due to the fact they draw in freshwater from rivers or lochs, can be subject to changes in weather,” he said.

The 17,500m2 hatchery has scope to produce up to 10 million smolts annually. Its location on the shores of Loch Creran near Oban means that the salmon can be transferred directly from hatchery to well-boat via a pipeline then transported on to one of the salmon grower’s 42 marine farms around Scotland’s west coast, Orkney and Shetland.

Of the 5,200m3 of freshwater required per day, up to 99% is recirculated. This water is cleaned every 30 minutes via using filters and UV light and maintained at a constant temperature via heat pumps and heat exchanges, a process which uses less energy than traditional kerosene boilers or electric.

Meanwhile, a biomass system run on locally sourced wood chip provides heating and hot water throughout the rest of the facility.

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