One of the company’s longest farmed locations, Loch Nevis, is next in line with a £1.5 million upgrade.
Two of its three farms – Nevis A and Nevis B – are being modernised, while Nevis C is being temporarily rested.
Where once there were 12 x 80m circumference pens at each farm, there will now be five 120m pens, reducing the overall number of units from 36 to just 10 while maintaining the same overall biomass.
This will allow more space between pens, increase water exchange and oxygen flow in and around farms, and, in turn, enhance growing conditions further.
And with fewer pens for the farm teams and support vessels to get around,
the new configuration will also help maximise operational efficiencies and response times.
Regional Production Manager for the Mainland Innes Weir said: ‘We’ve seen, at other farms that have been through the process already, that consolidating into fewer pens but of a larger size gives us the ability to better manage our resources, equipment, fish health and welfare, and water quality.
‘It also provides greater scope to minimise the impact of environmental challenges that can pass through farms, such as the acute micro-jellyfish event that affected Loch Nevis last autumn.
‘That was a natural point for us to pause, reflect on what worked well about the site but also what more we might be able to do going forward to pre-empt the challenges of an ever-changing climate.
Under PDR (permitted development rights) rulings that came in two years ago, salmon farmers are now able to apply to increase pens to a maximum circumference of 200m.
‘At Nevis B, we could have gone to 160m pens. However, at Nevis A, where it’s shallower, 120m pens were more suitable.
‘We felt that fitting out both farms with five 120m pens would give greater consistency for the farm team.’
Both farms will be stocked later this year and the farm team is feeling positive about the upgrade.
‘There’s a real appetite to see the new farm configuration in action and the benefits to fish health and welfare,’ said Farm Support Manager Martin Ruddick, who has been overseeing the installation of the pens and moorings, all supplied by Scale AQ.
‘In addition, there will be a new transfer vessel, from Flugga Boats in Shetland, that’s fully enclosed, making getting to and from farm safer and more comfortable. It’s also considerably faster, cutting the journey down from 30-45 minutes to 15-20 minutes.’
Loch Nevis is the fourth of six such upgrades and consolidations to take place this farming year, following Fiunary in the Sound of Mull, Bring Head in Orkney and Setterness South in Shetland, with Wyre and Swarta Skerry – both also in the Northern Isles – due to be stocked soon.
This brings the total number of modernisations since 2021 to 14.
Next up, in early 2024, will be Kishorn North, South and West; Summer Isles; and Toyness.