Friday, December 10, 2010

MSc Module 6: Aquaculture in Practice

The sixth and final module for the Foundation portion of the Masters thesis was titled ‘Aquaculture in Practice’.  The first week was spent in the field, visiting fish farms along the west coast of Scotland (see previous blog article).

The second week we spent at the Institute, receiving a variety of lectures on the economics of the aquaculture industry.  These topics included cashflows, supply and demand, marketing, and financial assessments.  The main assessed project was a complete feasibility study for a given aquaculture operation: our group chose to set up a kingfish (Seriola lalandi) facility in New Zealand.  We looked at all the aspects of starting such a farm, including capital and operating costs, markets, prices, and investment analysis.  

At the end of the week, we gave an investment pitch to a group of professors who played the part of potential investors, grilling us about where their money was going and what we were going to do with it.  When the dust settled, the operation that we designed stood up to their challenges, and we were commended for constructing such a sound business venture.

With the Foundation Modules now complete, we have a month-long break for the Holidays, during which I will be traveling in Europe.  After we return, we begin the Advanced Modules, where we are allowed to choose the courses we take in an effort to specialize our knowledge and gain specific degree outcomes.  As I will be pursuing a degree in ‘Sustainable Aquaculture Business Management’, the majority of my courses will focus on that motif.

See you in the New Year!  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

4-Day Study Tour of Fish Farms in the Scottish Highlands

Gorsten Salmon Farm, Fort Williams (Marine Harvest Scotland)
 This week our MSc class had the incredible opportunity to participate in a 4-day study tour of fish farms along the west coast of Scotland.  We stayed in Fort Williams, at the base of Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands, and while the temperate never got above 0o C (it was closer to -10!), the experience was nevertheless invaluable!

Due to the terrible weather conditions (extreme cold and snow), we were late leaving Stirling the first day and only arrived in Fort Williams after dark.  The second day we started early, driving 2 hours to Ardtoe Marine Labs, a commercial and research facility that often collaborates with the Institute at Stirling.  Here, the farm manager, Jim Treasurer, gave us an overview lecture of the work that the facility is doing: broodstock programs for halibut, cod, haddock, turbot, and sole; experiments with wrasse to combat sea lice in salmon cages; and the culture of sea urchins, oysters, and seaweeds for integrated aquaculture systems.  After hearing about the work, we took a tour of the facility.

Our next stop was Lochailort Salmon Farm, a small research site owned and operated by Marine Harvest Scotland where feed trails are carried out.  After that, we headed down the road to the Lochailort Smolt Facility, where Marine Harvest hatches salmon eggs and grows them to smolts before shipping them to their ocean on-growing sites.

Wednesday found us split into two groups: in the morning, our group went to the Blar Mhor Marine Harvest Processing Plant, where salmon grown in Scotland are processed and shipped all over the world.  The fish are delivered freshly killed, and in the processing plant they are gutted, cleaned, and put on ice in boxes to be shipped out.  In the afternoon, we went to the Gorsten Salmon Farm, a Marine Harvest sea-cage site.  There, we took a boat out to the cages and saw them grading fish: this process separates fish into different size-classes to make harvesting easier and more effective. 

Upon returning to the hotel, we received two lectures: the first was from Douige Hunter, the technical Services Manager of Marine Harvest Scotland, and covered overviews of the Marine Harvest production cycle, as well as the state of the global salmon market.  The second was from Dave Cockerill, a veterinarian with Marine Harvest, who spoke about fish diseases and welfare issues.

Overall the trip was a resounding success: we got to see a wide variety of aquaculture systems and operations, we had a chance to talk in-depth with several industry people, and we received lots of different perspectives from different players along the salmon value chain.  Plus, no one in the class got frostbite!!

Oyster broodstock at Ardtoe Marine Labs (Viking Fish Farms)
Lochailort Salmon Farm (Marine Harvest Scotland)

Blar Mhor Salmon Processing Plant (Marine Harvest Scotland)