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Scottish Sea Farms pride in double prize. Scottish Sea Farms celebrated a double triumph at the annual Aquaculture Awards, announced yesterday.

In a hotly contested field, with entries from all over the world, the company’s Noelia Rodriguez scooped the Finfish Farmer of the Year award, while the Orkney team won the Economic Sustainability prize for providing much needed housing on the remote island of Eday.

Scottish Sea Farms managing director Jim Gallagher was the first to congratulate his inspiring staff for their achievements.

‘Across the company, in every region and department, we have exceptional people doing some really exceptional things, all with the shared purpose of farming as responsibly and as sustainably as we possibly can. Awards schemes such as these are a great opportunity to pause, take stock and recognise this above and beyond effort.

‘I am delighted for Noelia, who continues to go from strength to strength, and for our Eday homes team who, by thinking bigger picture, have improved conditions for colleagues and very possibly shaped a new business model for ensuring more of our remote farms remain viable in the long-term.’

Noelia, operations manager at the company’s new Barcaldine RAS Hatchery, is originally from Asturias in northern Spain.

She joined Scottish Sea Farms in 2012 as Fish Health Biologist, beginning her career at the company’s marine farms and managing, along the way, to gain an MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture from the University of St Andrews.

She made the leap to freshwater production in 2017 and was soon appointed operations manager of the new Barcaldine Hatchery, equipped with RAS (recirculating aquaculture system) technology.

Noelia is credited with creating greater collaboration between freshwater and marine farming, resulting in measurable advances in fish health and welfare.

Now two years into her role at Barcaldine, her focus on producing top quality smolts has been rewarded with fish that have been, in her words, ‘nothing short of amazing’!

Of her award, Noelia said:

‘There was a lot of talent represented in the category and across the awards as a whole, so I feel really honoured to have been chosen.

‘I have such a passion for the sector. Equally, the last few years have been such hard work to make Barcaldine the success that it is today, not only for me but for all involved, so this award is really for all those who helped make it happen and who continue to work hard to produce the best quality smolts.’

In Orkney, Scottish Sea Farms worked with local landowners Willowstream to address the housing shortage in Eday.

Farm manager Phil Boardman said while the conditions for growing salmon off the island were superb, the remote location had made recruitment difficult.

With just 76 habitable properties for a population of 129 people, the lack of affordable homes threatened the long-term viability of the salmon farm; a farm that in eight years has grown more than 1.6 million premium salmon with a combined market value in excess of £44 million.

The solution was to introduce a two-week on, two-week off shift pattern, and to build high-specification houses that staff could go home to after each shift, removing the inter-island commute and freeing up more personal time.

Phil, together with Northern Isles regional manager Richard Darbyshire, approached Willowstream and, in partnership with Kirkwall-based architect Leslie Burgher, conceived a 1.5 acre, six-strong development of homes in the secluded area of Mill Bay.

The holiday lodge type houses were designed to be as eco-friendly as possible, with air source heat pumps which absorb warmth from the air outside to heat indoors; cedar wood cladding to help insulate the homes and reduce overall energy use; and wind-generated power from two existing adjacent turbines, among other features.

The project was completed early this year, with the first occupants taking up residency ahead of the farm receiving its next generation of fish.

Said Phil:

‘The difference now is huge. The team are happy both at work and out of hours with a proper chance to rest and recharge between what can be long and tiring shifts. It’s great to see.”