AquaGen Scotland officially opened the Holywood Breeding Center, near Dumfries, in a long-delayed official ceremony with the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon.
Andrew Reeve, managing director of AquaGen Scotland, said, “COVID-19 restrictions led us to put off this ceremony more than once, so we are very pleased to be able to celebrate our achievements today.”
AquaGen acquired the hatchery in March 2019 and has subsequently invested more than £5 million, rebuilding and repurposing the facility for salmon egg production and providing eight highly skilled new jobs.
Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon, said that “aquaculture and its wider supply chain is an essential component of Scotland’s economy, adding valuable jobs and contributing to the local economies in some of our most fragile and rural communities. We are working to continually improve the policy and regulatory framework to mitigate environmental impact and at the same time support sustainable growth, and I welcome plans by AquaGen to increase egg production for domestic and export markets. I am delighted to see this important part of the breeding sector develop in Scotland, which will support better biosecurity by providing a robust ova supply in Scotland, selected for their performance in the Scottish marine environment.”
Best performance in the Scottish farmed environment
The AquaGen strain has been developed since 1971 through scientific selection and breeding for the best performance in commercial fish farming. The acquisition of the Holywood Breeding Center enables the company to provide a reliable supply of eggs from AquaGen broodstock, which are reared in and selected for best performance in the Scottish farmed environment. Key investments include full environmental control of the broodfish rearing environment and state-of-the-art egg incubation systems.
“Our ongoing investment supports the aims of Scotland’s 10 Year Farmed Fish Health Framework, by helping to improve the security and quality of Scotland’s ova supply. Fish health and quality are the foremost drivers for our business, and we pride ourselves on meeting the needs of Scottish salmon farmers,” Reeves, said. Over the next three years, the company aims to increase production to 50 million eggs, which will be available for delivery all year round to domestic and export markets.
AquaGen works closely with two of Scotland’s largest salmon farming companies, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland and Scottish Sea Farms. Elite breeding populations are reared in their commercial locations on the west coast and the Northern Isles. The best-performing stock is selected at sea and returned to Holywood for egg production.
Keeping elite populations in Scotland facilitates targeted breeding to improve biological traits specific to stock health and welfare in Scottish farming conditions. In turn, this increases relative robustness and most importantly, welfare in stocks destined to supply a high-quality Scottish product to the market.