When Loch Duart started the world was a very different place. Our thinking and our aims were very different. Our approach to farming was very different and we had all the enthusiasm, dynamism and impetus of a new organisation. This is not to say that we don’t have many of these things now but salmon farming is so different now. Many of the things that we did have been copied and, frankly, have succeeded. With no embarrassment at all it is easy to list the things that we have contributed to: Freedom Food, fishmeal identification, multi-trophic aquaculture, lice filtration and, most of all, the welfare practices which, together, represented a higher level of respect and concern for the fish – and still do.
One factor that hasn’t changed is the ‘new-ness’ of sea farming finfish. If land-based agriculture was ‘born’ around the Euphrates three or four thousand years ago, they have a big head start! Salmon farming started in Scotland in 1975. So much has been learnt since then and the excitement of our industry is how far it must continue to develop.
We have been lucky enough to have a committed staff and have attracted some fantastic new people. So here we are with a great team, some great farms and a great product, so why am I banging on about change? In a farm that is performing well in both farm and market, why would anyone want to change anything?
Most people who join our company do so because they want to join the company that has the reputation of being innovative and is “doing the right thing”. Loch Duart has that reputation and so people of enthusiasm want to find out how it is done. This situation creates two problems: the people joining want to know the formula and the people in place want to show the formula. It is a problem because any formula must change to stay at the cutting edge of the industry. How can anyone teach a formula that changes? How can managers train people to do the “right thing” when the right thing is different week from week and evolves? Most of all, how do we protect and continue to achieve our commercial position whilst constantly changing?
Here, I am sure, you the reader are waiting for some deep and clever pronouncement answering these imponderables. Well, you aren’t going to get it from me! The truth is that things have to change for a company to stay at the cutting edge. There is no alternative to this and, though it seems that everyone outside the company is trying to stop any innovative thinking, we have to keep going. If there is anything that we should have learnt, it is that our strength is our ability to change and innovate. What I am saying is that we have to find ways to change, ways to what we do better and more efficiently but more importantly, new ways to do what we do that impact less and lead the industry again.
I acknowledge that the way we farm already costs us time and complication. Moving equipment from site to site for long fallowing, swim-throughs and grading costs us efficiency and requires much higher than average management skill. Many could complain that we need to simplify what we do before moving on but this is a gift that is not mine to offer. It has been a hard long road through a field where regulation is set against us and activists attack us for not meeting their agenda. It is important to realise that this is our lot and we have to accept it with the territory that we have elected to live on.
So let me tell you what is to come. Loch Duart is going to revitalise all it does from sales and market perception to production innovation. Our thrust is to find the new way for our times now. The old ways can and will continue but we will not be the same company with the same old practices in two years time. There are plenty of new alternatives out there, whether it be new sources of protein for feed or new ways to keep sea lice off fish or even better ways to keep seals away from our fish.
It really doesn’t matter where we change, as long as it brings new positives. All that really matters is that we do change and continue to do so.