This article was featured in the 40th Anniversary issue of Fish Farmer magazine.
It would be fair to say that parallels can be drawn between the growth of Scottish Aquaculture and the evolution of Gael Force Group in recent years. As the industry has grown, and the needs and challenges of fish farmers have advanced significantly, the team at Gael Force has had its collective ear continuously on the ground, developing its products and services in response to what farm operators are saying, and always with the focus of ensuring that farmers feel enabled to give as much of their attention to fish welfare and husbandry as possible.
Today, the company is the largest Scottish SME manufacturing and supplying equipment, technology and services to the Scottish Aquaculture industry, with a staff number which is edging increasingly close to 200 – over 50 of those joining Gael Force in 2017 alone. And whilst Gael Force’s burgeoning success can be attributed to a highly accomplished and committed team led by Stewart Graham, and the growing popularity of its dependable, trusted equipment and services, that success is also an indication of how far the Scottish Aquaculture industry has progressed in recent years, with a keen desire across sectors to grow together as documented in Vision 2030 and supported by the Industry Leadership Group, of which Stewart co-Chairs.
Developing alongside fish farmers
The development of their range of equipment, technology and services that Gael Force Group has brought to, and continues to bring to fish farming, is in regular response to feedback from farm operators on how Gael Force can support them in achieving improvements to their business.
Take their most recent development, for example, SeaFeed Offshore Feeding System, which has been designed to ensure accuracy and reliability in feeding, but also has a unique safety feature whereby when the selector cover is opened, the rotation of the selector will cease, thus helping to prevent operator safety problems during access.
The bespoke SeaFeed software, which is developed in-house, allows each farm to manage the way they feed and in a way that suits them, their fish and the environment they grow their fish in, rather than having to feed their fish within the constraints of a system.
And, their range of Scottish manufactured in-pen technology which includes cameras, lights and seal deterrents, supported by data logging software, is becoming increasingly visible across farms. The SeaSight 410 underwater camera with 360-degree pan and tilt function comes with a lens brush cleaner, ensuring superb picture clarity which means optimum pellet and fish condition identification – a key requirement for fish farmers.
The adoption of Gael Force SeaLight has been an illuminating experience for Scottish Sea Farms in Shetland. Scottish Sea Farms Engineering Manager, Keith Fraser, said about SeaLight that it “delivers a fantastic reduction in power consumption… helps to reduce our environmental impact and delivers a large fuel saving, that along with 100% product reliability.”
Gael Force’s consumables supply service, now approaching its tenth year in operation, has enabled Marine Harvest and, most recently The Scottish Salmon Company, to source all their day-to-day goods such as PPE, cleaning supplies, and tools, from a one-stop shop via an online ordering system and dedicated supply chain team. The benefit of this being that fish farm operators are able to consolidate purchasing in a single contract which allows them to standardise product and make very significant direct cost savings and perhaps even larger indirect savings by leaving managers and staff free to focus more time on the important job of fish husbandry and less time on time-consuming product sourcing and purchasing.
A testament to the trust that Gael Force has earned in the industry was evident in August this year when Marine Harvest Scotland confirmed an order for Gael Force to build and supply a series of SeaMate 400T concrete feed barges, complete with the SeaFeed Feeding System. This was Gael Force’s biggest single order to date and one which will see a doubling of capacity at their Inverness based manufacturing facility; a move which will assist in accommodating an increased programme of barge builds over the coming two years that also includes barge build capacity for other Scottish Salmon producers.
The company’s moorings capabilities and capacity continue to go from strength to strength. Founded on a quality management system, procedures and documentation which ensures and guides clients to ensure best practice and minimise containment risk. Their commitment to the industry to deliver fish cage and feed barge moorings which are fully compliant with the Scottish Technical Standard is behind the continued success of SeaQure Moor – an end-to-end system with combines innovative components to protect farm investment. Trust across the industry in the SeaQure Moor system is evident as demand continues to grow with deployment to multiple sites now occurring on a monthly basis.
Leading by example
As part of Gael Force’s commitment to the industry, the group’s founder and MD Stewart Graham was a driving force behind the Scottish Aquaculture Growth Strategy to 2030 and is now co-Chair of the Scottish Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group. His resolve to gain support and commitment to the industry from the Scottish Government, as well as all stakeholder support for its strategy, has helped place Scottish Aquaculture on a focused path towards growth out to 2030.
That involvement in the ILG, cross-sector co-operation and open communication, allows Gael Force and others to support one another to innovate in areas affecting the industry, and maintain the focus on the end goal of doubling the value of aquaculture production in Scotland by 2030 – thus supporting social, economic and environmentally sustainable growth in and from aquaculture.
What does the future hold?
As the industry continues to grow, Gael Force Group continues to head down a track which should eventually see them offer the widest complementary end-to-end range of equipment, technology and services to the aquaculture market. Their recent recruitment of an in-house software development team gives them the added capability to develop existing and new software as technology advances and plays an ever-increasing important part in day-to-day farm management.
Of course, it’s not just their home patch where Aquaculture has been a great success. Overseas, other countries are opening their eyes to the sustainability of fish farming and the important role it plays in our global future. This undoubtedly offers Gael Force the opportunity to take their equipment and technology to overseas markets, a prospect that will soon become reality as the group plan for expansion into new targeted overseas markets.
One thing is for certain about the future, and that is Gael Force is committed to listening to and growing with all its partners in the aquaculture industry in the years ahead, while proudly serving its many satisfied current and future customers.
MHS Barge Photo Credit to Arthur Campbell, Marine Harvest.