Ferguson, 34, was named winner of the Higher Education SCQF Level 9+ category for completing a Technical Apprenticeship in Aquaculture Management at Shetland UHI in under a year instead of the normal two years, while working for Grieg Seafood Shetland (now owned by Scottish Sea Farms) at Setterness.
Commenting on the award win, which was announced last night at a ceremony in the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Dunblane Hydro, Ferguson said: ‘During the pandemic, when we were split into two teams, there were days when we would get an hour here and there and I spent that time on the coursework.
‘Obviously, on the farm it’s very hands-on and this was a good opportunity to learn about the other side of the business.’
Ferguson, who was also named Overall Runner-up at the ALBAS 2022, moved from Glasgow to Lerwick initially to work in fish processing, said he ‘kept knocking on doors’ until he was given the chance to work on a salmon farm.
After four years he was asked to work in the cleaner fish team and by 2019 he had been promoted to Assistant Farm Manager. He hopes one day to manage his own farm.
‘I’m proud to win these awards and see the hard work and dedication recognised. I hope this will motivate people in a similar position.’
Ferguson was nominated by his tutor in Shetland, Stuart Fitzsimmons, who said: ‘Derek continued to do his coursework during the Covid pandemic, which is impressive considering the high workload, displaying his total commitment to aquaculture and his enthusiasm.
‘We need more people like Derek in the challenging aquaculture sector, particularly at remote marine sites. He is a great advocate for future apprentices and the industry.’
Scottish Sea Farms’ Head of HR Tracy Bryant-Shaw said the company was proud of Ferguson’s achievements: ‘Derek is an asset to Scottish Sea Farms and we look forward to watching him develop his talents even further in our Shetland operations. He thoroughly deserves this recognition of his dedication and hard work.’
Also receiving special recognition on the night was Emily Underhill, 27, a freshwater fish health biologist at Scottish Sea Farms, who was named Runner-up in the Aquaculture category, which went on to be won by Emmanuelle Rey of Dawnfresh Farming.
The annual awards cover agriculture, aquaculture, equine, environmental conservation, game and wildlife, horticulture, land-based engineering and trees and timber.
As well as prizes for Overall Winner, Runner-up and Modern Apprentice of the Year, there are also prizes for Higher Education, School Pupil and Secondary Schools, CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies), Jean’s Jam for inspirational tutor, the Tam Tod Trophy for outstanding young learner, and the Anna Murray Award for Partnership Working.