New-model Scottish farmer plans “not just another salmon farm”

William Stoichevski

With permissions in place, Organic Sea Harvest’s chief exec assures fragile community and opponents that he aims to bolster the Highlands and Islands economy

“This is not just another salmon farm. This is different,” says Alex MacInnes, managing director of Organic Sea Harvest, the start-up recently given the go-ahead by Highland Council to grow 5,000 tonnes of salmon off the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

MacInnes, who grew up on “nearby” North Uist, is keen to see salmon-farming do locally what it has elsewhere in Scotland — restore the interaction of local communities with the sea. In Norway, he knows, they’d say he’s targeting “the ocean space” or tapping an “ocean industry”. In Scotland, however, only those who see the socio-economic benefits of salmon-farming allow him the claim of “visionary”.

The trust
An issue, for some, is support for Organic from the private —  not public — organization, the The Staffin Community Trust, which stands to benefit from having another member. The advocacy for local business and investment is in-turn supported by export agency, Scottish Development. In effect, both have cheered-on Organic’s two fish farms and plans for local processing. So, too, has the Highland North planning council.

“This is a visionary project involving the community to a huge extent,” said MacInnes, adding that 50 jobs at the planned processing site and nearby salmon farms will be created.

Read Organic Sea Harvest gets nod for 5,000 tonnes of Skye

“Organic Sea Harvest have worked right from the start in partnership with SCT on this vision and we have a clear road map to work from. Families can make a living in their own community, using with respect the resources the environment provides, and doing it in a way that makes them continually aware of the need to safeguard the environment of their own community.

“This is how my parents and grandparents fished & crofted. With the future-planned processing unit, we are looking to do away with the massive food miles challenge, our humanely slaughtered fish will be therefore processed on site locally,” he said.

Proposed landing site: the Isle of Skye’s Staffin Slipway, apparent key to Organic Sea Harvest’s processing plans

Regulatory rigour
In Scotland, as elsewhere, MacInnes and Organic, have faced accusations from those suggesting he might ruin the local environment. In his defence, he points to the newer equipment the licenses will put to use; the bevy of approvals from fishery boards and Scotland’s two main regulators, and his own detailed planning.

“I am looking to farm in a very different way. I have absolutely no intention of harming the environment which I respect as much as they do. If the environment is destroyed, this whole project will fail. Why would I do that.”, he said.

With his plans already scrutinized and approved by Scotland’s layers of regulators, Organic Sea Harvest is at last ready to grow salmon.

“I have spent many years on this project working hard to ensure that every environmental challenge can and will be met within a sustainable and deliverable business model,” MacInnes said.

Organic sites at Culnacnoc and Invertote are envisioned producing Skye Organic, a nod to their environment, feed type and type of operation planned.


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