Hendrix Genetics' Inverkerry Hatchery near Gairloch is the sole supplier of smolts for Organic Sea Harvest. Separated by the Inner Sound (between Skye and the mainland), you can see Gairloch from the OSH sea sites and it's just a couple of hours steam by boat between the two.
In 2019, Organic Sea Harvest signed a multimillion-pound investment and collaboration deal with Hendrix-Genetics to redevelop the hatchery - which was built in the mid 1980s - to suit the organic-related requirements of OSH and offer the best possible environment to the fish in their first stages of life.
Redevelopment - 2020 to 2022
Twenty four brand new, larger tanks have been installed across the site to meet the standards of organic production and the associated low stocking densities.
The hatchery is fed by water from the River Kerry that flows directly beside it. A new UV filter system has been installed to remove pathogens from this natural water supply, which helps prevent the need for chemical water treatments.
The new tanks that have been installed don’t have walkways over them, as the presence of walkways (and associated human users) has been proven to cause fish unnecessary stress. The farm is also covered entirely by bird netting to prevent birds and predators from access to the stock.
Renovation work was undertaken inside the hatchery building too, including new kitchen and welfare facilities and cosmetic improvements.
During the hatchery upgrade, local contractors and businesses were used in preference to larger, more costly companies. This creates a ripple effect of contributing to the local economy and helping to sustain local employment.
The redeveloped Inverkerry Hatchery was officially opened by Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon MSP on the 23rd August 2022.
As with the OSH sea sites, there are organic standards that must be met. This focuses around:
OSH and the Inverkerry Hatchery continue to go above and beyond the minimum standards. The fish are not domesticated animals and it’s important to watch their natural reactions to certain situations, along with their natural behaviours.
The hatchery team
The hatchery currently employs five people that are local to the Gairloch area, but also attracts workers from further afield including University students. The current team is a mixture of old and new people to the aquaculture industry, with fish welfare courses and modern apprenticeships being some of the ways used to help attract and retain team members. Education is the key to the long-term success of aquaculture.
There is a huge emphasis on continuing to find new ways and new technologies to assist in creating the best environment for the fish, alongside ongoing training for the dedicated teams on the ground. New advances in technology include more reliable, efficient, and dynamically controllable feeding systems as well as environmental monitoring and control systems.
The fish that are being grown for OSH are some of the highest quality fish in the Scottish aquaculture industry. The high-energy OSH sea sites require strong, healthy fish, raised in a high-quality freshwater environment.
The growing cycle
Once the smolts are ready to go to sea, they are loaded directly onto a live fish-carrier vessel via a transfer pipe, which connects the hatchery to the vessel mooring position. This removes the need for road transport.