THE world’s biggest “salmon warehouse” is set to be built in Scotland, breeding hundreds of thousands of fish annually without any of them entering a river or the sea.
FishFrom wants to build the £15m warehouse on the Kintyre peninsula and will shortly submit a planning application to Argyll and Bute Council.
The firm, based in Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross, says its “onshore” salmon farm will produce 3,000 tonnes of salmon each year.
But because the facility, to be built inside a 3.5 acres warehouse in Tayinloan, is not connected to the sea or rivers it is being billed as more environmentally friendly than traditional salmon farms.
The warehouse salmon will not be able to escape and breed with wild fish or infect them with sea lice. FishFrom also say pollution will be reduced overall.
The firm plans to ship 800,000 salmon a year from the new site to supply retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Youngs Seafood and Waitrose.
The company also has plans for another onshore farm at Machrihanish, also on Kintyre, and hope to open more in response to the growing demand for fish.
Andrew Robertson, a director at FishFrom, said the Tayinloan facility will help reduce costs to the environment.
He said: “This is about literally a sea-change in thinking. But with closed containment, the overall costs are reduced considerably as well as the cost to the environment.
“We don’t have to deal with sea lice, seals or storms. Closed containment is going to be a big part of the future.
“This will be the largest onshore salmon farm in the world…we plan to start operation next year.”
Closed containment systems already have the backing of Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST), a Perth-based conservation body, which is trying to save wild salmon from being wiped out from Scotland’s rivers.
The onshore farms will produce fish from the smolt stage, before they become an adult, growing them from 50g to 5kg in nine months.
This is half the time of sea cage salmon farming and will happen in tanks where 32 million litres of fresh and sea water will be pumped every hour.
Fish are already farmed in these closed containment facilities in Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, North America and China.
Tony Andrews, the chief executive of the AST, claims problems still remain in conventional aquaculture and that in places “the impacts on the environment and wildlife are unacceptably high.”
He added: “This valuable industry, in terms of jobs and revenue, as well as its contribution to removing the pressure from killing wild salmon, deserves our support.
“The problem is that salmon farming as currently practised has been shown to damage the environment and wildlife in certain locations in both fresh and salt water
“For AST this issue is a major challenge because, while we recognise the achievements of the industry in terms of the economic and social boost it has provided to local communities, we know that it cannot continue as it is.”
Approximately 158,000 tonnes of farmed fish are produced in Scotland a year with artificially reared salmon the nation’s largest food export.
However, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation is sceptical about the industry expanding onshore despite the increased demand.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “A recent critical review of closed containment systems concluded they do not offer adequate advantages to the Scottish salmon sector.
“The many disadvantages that were highlighted included higher levels of energy, greater environmental footprint, higher stocking densities, high level of capital and operating costs and higher prices for the consumer.”
Animal welfare groups have also expressed their concerns over the onshore farming.
Libby Anderson, policy director for animal protection charity, One Kind, said: “Salmon are a migratory species who by their nature travel thousands of miles in their lifetime. We can’t see how closed containment overcomes that issue.
“We can’t see how this will improve animal welfare. All salmon farming is an intensive rearing process with associated animal welfare problems.”