Meridian Salmon Group

Process of change for Aquaculture Company.

Aquaculture has taken great strides in recent years and one of the sector’s leading lights, the Meridian Salmon Group, is a perfect example of just how far the industry has come.

This summer, the company will open a multimillion pound, state-of-the-art processing facility and headquarters, to create up to 300 new jobs, doubling the group’s entire workforce in one single development.

But the facility is not being built in the commonly perceived aquaculture heartland of the Highlands and Islands.

Meridian’s new headquarters and plant will be located in Rosyth.

“People always talk about aquaculture as a vital link to the rural economy. That is very true but the industry is just as important to the economy of the Central Belt as it is to that of the Highlands,” business support director, Willie Young, told Executive.

“Aquaculture has grown to the stage where it is equally important to people in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife, as in the case of our new facility. Aquaculture is a Scotland-wide industry now.”

And it is not simply the location of the new plant that will help dispel many of the misconceptions surrounding the industry. The large-scale facility – the size of two football pitches – will house the very latest processing technology.

“It will be the best plant of its class in Europe and will house technology the like of which the UK has never seen before,” added Willie.

“The technology in the industry today is unbelievable both in processing and farming. Today we’re investing in the very best equipment and methods possible, continually innovating for now and the future.”

With the opening of the new plant and headquarters at Rosyth, 2012 looks set to mark another significant year for the company.

The Meridian Salmon Group celebrates its first anniversary this year following the merger in 2011 of two major, well established farming companies, Northern Isles Salmon (formerly Mainstream Scotland) and The Lakeland Group, which have since been joined by Westray Salmon and Rysa Salmon.

All four companies had been acquired in 2010 by Morpol, the world-leading processor of salmon and market leader of smoked and marinated salmon.

Key to the group’s success is that it is the only fully integrated salmon farming company in the country.

From broodstock to packaged products appearing on supermarket shelves, Meridian Salmon Group retains complete control over every stage of the production cycle, resulting in fish products of a consistently high quality.

“Being fully integrated from broodstock through to plate is Meridian’s key advantage in the industry, giving 100 per cent traceability and control for our customers,” said Willie. “Despite the grim economic times and the sharp downturn in salmon prices Meridian’s innovative approach to all areas of the business is delivering strong results.”

However, to ensure high quality products, you need high quality staff to deliver them.

“People at the end of the business are critical. From the people working in foul conditions year round to the administration and processing staff, all are vital to delivering a high quality product, and a product which is renowned the world over. At Meridian I believe we have some of the best staff available within the industry today and this shows in our products and results. Without good people you achieve nothing.”

But the group is not just thinking about the staff that it has in place now. Always keeping an eye on the future development of this fast growing industry, Meridian is keen to attract new talent and stresses that there are now very real opportunities for young people to achieve their ambitions in a wide variety of career options within the aquaculture sector.

“There is still this perception that people who work in aquaculture just feed fish. That image couldn’t be further from the truth.

“People don’t see the career variation or realise the huge opportunities there are. “There are health and safety managers, technical managers and engineers to name just a few.

“There are also very few industries where someone can come into the business at the bottom and end up being managing director.”

The success of aquaculture industry is one of the few good news stories to emerge from the recession and despite the current economic climate Willie is confident that its success will continue for years to come.

“In economic terms the aquaculture industry has been bucking the trend. In the last few months salmon prices have dropped but I think the market will stabilise and there will be continued growth in Scotland. A lot of it will depend on factors such as support from the Scottish government but aquaculture is a very positive industry to be in for sure.”

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