Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) has completed a £2.5 million refit at its salmon processing factory in Lerwick.
The investment has doubled the seafood firm’s processing capacity in Shetland from 25,000 tonnes annually to 50,000t in advance of anticipated higher volumes.
SSF acquired the facility in Gremista as part of its purchase of Grieg Seafood Shetland in December 2021, along with 16 active fish farms and a freshwater hatchery.
Within months, all fish processing activity in the region was switched to the company’s long-standing Scalloway base – a hub for fish from both Shetland and Orkney – to allow a major refit in Lerwick.
One centre, maximum efficiency for Scottish Sea Farms in Lerwick
Donald Buchanan, head of processing operations, SSF, said the aim was to streamline processing into one centre, maximising efficiencies.
He added: “We were looking to create a ‘facility of the future’ capable of receiving all fish from our expanded Northern Isles estate.
“With a larger footprint and proximity to the ferry network, Lerwick made the obvious choice.”
Explaining what the expansion project entailed, Mr Buchanan said: “We stripped back the existing processing facility to its very core, right down to adding new floors, drains and internal fabrication.
“Then we reconfigured the layout to create self-contained areas for the key activities of harvesting, gutting and packing, each of which was fitted out with a mix of existing and all-new equipment.”
Fish are harvested in the most humane way.”
Donald Buchanan, head of processing operations, SSF
Key to the new-look harvesting area, as with the company’s processing facility at South Shian on the Scottish mainland, is an in-water fish “stunner” supplied by Ace Aquatec.
Mr Buchanan said: “This ensures fish are harvested in the most humane way by rendering them unconscious, while still in their natural environment of water.
‘There’s also a second, smaller stunner to ensure any bycatch or cleaner fish (used to treat sea-lice) receive the same high welfare treatment.”
Other innovations in the new-look seafood factory in Lerwick
Gutted fish are kept chilled in new refrigerated containers ahead of grading and packing.
Further automation has been introduced in the packing area, aimed at minimising handling.
Mr Buchanan said: “Throughout, we’ve engaged the team to ensure we get the detail exactly right, encouraging colleagues to come to us with ideas for further improvement.
“It’s an approach that has paid off, with the new-look facility having now achieved all necessary audit, environmental and retail standards, including RSPCA Assured, Global GAP, Label Rouge, M&S and Waitrose.”
SSF head of technical Andy Gourlay said: ‘Ensuring the facility complies with our many different certifications and standards has required a colossal amount of work from each of the teams involved: processing, engineering, IT and technical.
“However, by working together towards a shared goal, we’ve achieved it.”
Now fully operational, the facility can handle 200t a day, compared with 100t before.
There’s also 40% of the available floor space still available, allowing room for further growth.
Room to grow in Lerwick facility
Mr Buchanan added: “Not only have we doubled capacity in the here and now, but there’s scope to increase that further to process up to 70,000t annually, over years to come, should we wish to.”
For its 80-strong processing team, the Lerwick factory provides a more spacious working environment, complete with new changing rooms, a lounge and canteen.
Stirling-headquartered SSF said its Scalloway base would remain a “key facility”, providing a secondary harvesting site during periods of peak volumes and supporting farming activities.