Meet the founder of the first UK processor to carry only salmon from land-based farms

Matthew Wilcox

“I have been caught in a trap of supporting an industry which I simply don’t believe in.”

Silverscale is not Chris Mills first entry into the world of fish.

Mills is the founder and owner of the Upton Smokery, located outside Burford at the heart of England’s prosperous Cotswolds – the location for former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson’s wildly popular docu-drama, Clarkson’s farm.

Mills has been in the food business for 20 years and the Upton Smokery is firmly ensconced within the UK’s foodie fundament having been featured in the Financial Times top 50 places to shop in the world, where it was described as a destination “beloved of the Chipping Norton set,” shorthand for Clarkson, former Prime Minister David Cameron, and assorted members of News International’s Murdoch clan.

The Upton Smokery was listed by Tatler as one of the 8 best farm shops in the UK.

Not content, it seems, with continuing to carve out his own comfortable niche in Oxfordshire, in December, Mills embarked on a quiet revolution, and launched Silverscale Fish, the only company in the UK to be 100% focussed on land-based aquaculture

So why make such a change?

“I have been caught in a trap of supporting an industry (salmon farming) which I simply don’t believe in,” Mills told SalmonBusiness.

A keen angler, the genesis of Silverscale Fish stems from Mills’ concern over the dwindling wild fish stocks, particularly in regions like Scotland, where (Mills says) salmon farming has exacerbated ecological challenges.

“We view ourselves as part of the movement against open cage salmon farming at sea which is an environmental tragedy. If people really knew what happened below water, they would never eat salmon again,” said Mills.

Driven by a deep-rooted commitment to environmental stewardship, Mills sees Silverscale as part of the inevitable shift away from traditional aquaculture.

“We’ve witnessed the decline of wild fish stocks in Scotland, and it’s time for change. The lack of regulation and monitoring in the industry is concerning,” said Mills, who calls it the ‘wild west’ of aquaculture.

Why Iceland?

As a result of his interest in angling, Mills spends a lot of time in Iceland. It was here that the idea for Silverscale first took root.

“I was really taken by the Icelandic story. The farm I’ve been working with, I’ve been there almost since the first spade was put in the ground. and so I’m very much invested in the story.”

Mills extols Iceland’s natural advantages, praising its lava-filtered pure water, geothermal bedrock, and low-cost, long-term renewable energy contracts as unmatched.

Land-based salmon company breaks ground on new 7,500 ton facility

The farm supplying Silverscale is Landeldi, now known as First Water, which completed its first harvest of  salmon from its farm in Thorlakshofn in southwestern Iceland last summer.

“In Iceland, there’s not a single hotel, restaurant, shop, or supermarket selling salmon from open farming,” according to Mills. “This demonstrates a commitment to sustainability that we aim to replicate.”

The Silverscale founder envisions a future where sustainable aquaculture practices are embraced universally.

“Our mission is to educate consumers and drive awareness about the benefits of sustainable aquaculture. We believe that transparency and consumer engagement are essential for widespread adoption,” he said.

Silverscale aims to sell fresh fish along with smoked products under its label, gaining traction as concerns over mortality and disease in open net salmon farming mount.

“Although we feel like we’re pioneers in a way, we are beginning to see a little bit of a domino effect. And once all these land-based salmon farm have started proper production, you can be absolutely sure that if one big player gets it, then they’re all going to follow suit if they are serious about their sustainable credentials.”


Related Articles