Team at Loch Lochy work around the clock to transfer smolts to sea
A team of ten at Loch Lochy has been working around the clock recently and is often on the go before 5am loading up to 21 lorries a day to transfer out smolts to our sea farms at Maclean’s Nose, Camus, Greshornish and Gorsten.
Sandy MacKinnon, Farm Manager at Loch Lochy, provides an insight into the planning and execution of this crucial stage of the salmon lifecycle.
“For the past few years Loch Lochy has been successfully putting to sea thirty per cent of Mowi’s annual smolt production,” Sandy explains. “As the number of smolts has increased, we have adapted our operations at Loch Lochy to become more efficient. Possibly the most significant change is that we now take in a higher percentage of vaccinated parr which allows us to focus more heavily on the smoltification stage, ensuring great fish go to our seawater sites for the next growing phase in their lifecycle.”
Another change to the operations at Loch Lochy is the loading area. Originally built in 2010, it was designed to meet our requirements at that time where a much smaller well boat was used for smolt transfers and a maximum of eight lorries would leave the site each day. Modifications have been made to the loading yard working area to increase efficiency and capacity to handle a higher volume of fish more efficiently and it leaves the capacity for further improvement.
Sandy adds: “The area has now been concreted and set in a way to ease loading and unloading. It allows for the truck drivers to gain better access to the site and load more easily. We have also changed from small noisy petrol driven water pumps to electric submersible pumps which self-prime and aren’t prone to freezing during winter months. The counting tower has been upgraded to be more comfortable given the amount of time spent there throughout the year. The next phase in the upgrade is to adapt the end of the loading pontoon to make it easier to change over cages during loading.”
The upgrade to the loading area has been completed by the team at Loch Lochy, no external contractors were used. Not only has this saved money, but it also resulted in a bespoke site, designed by the team that operates it each day.
The scale of the upgrade is as impressive as the volume of smolts leaving Loch Lochy with over 20 lorry loads of concrete poured, four artic loads of large building blocks and over 1,000 tonnes of earth moved back along with retaining support put in along the shoreline.
There is so much for the team to feel proud of, as Sandy expresses: “Thanks to Patryk in particular who is one of the assistant managers here and main drivers in delivering a good quality finish to the site, and behind this is an extremely dedicated and flexible team who have come a long way and developed some valuable skills, Loch Lochy is now running at its full capacity with consistently good production performance which given its size can be challenging in itself. I’m extremely proud of the team and everything we have achieved together.”
Following the completion of the smolt transfer, the site will lie fallow throughout November and the team will take a well-earned holiday along with helping other sites. Then it will be back to work with 36 cages to prepare with new nets, some road tarring and maintenance work around the site along with staff training before the next intake of parr in December.