Why I care about Irish Aquaculture (and maybe you should too)

Aquaculture, Industry News

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Three weeks ago Sam and I had the pleasure of taking part in the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association (ACFFA) Mission to Ireland to experience their aquaculture industry. The mission consisted of 45 industry professionals and government personnel travelling as a group to network and learn about aquaculture in Ireland.

Sam and I arrived in Dublin a day early to explore the scenery and of course enjoy a Guinness. Our mini-Deep Trekker came along for the adventure!

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The next day we met up with our group from Atlantic Canada. There were farm managers from the finfish and shellfish industries, environmental coordinators, mayors, product managers, and more. The unique blend of various roles in the industry gave me the opportunity to learn about Canadian aquaculture from a number of different views. Not only was I in Ireland to learn about the Irish aquaculture industry, but because I was with a group of such amazing people from Canada I had the chance to learn more about the Canadian industry as well. Sam and I formed great relationships with these hardworking people and learned so much from them while sharing our knowledge of ROVs in the industry.

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Once we met up with our group we bussed to Bantry (on the coast) and attended a seminar on the Irish industry. Discussions during this portion covered topics such as marketing the industry, the farmer’s side, the state’s side, the shellfish industry and the issue of sea lice. In Ireland the main focus for farming has been to provide organically certified crops and to meet the customers’ expectations for what they consider to be organic.

As the discussions continued many great ideas and objectives were set out by both farmers and the government. The government is working to develop a “National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture” that focuses on a variety of aspects of the fish farming industry, as well as environmental management. Throughout the seminar I found myself thinking of all the different ways in which mini-ROVs could be of use to the farmers and government in order to monitor and implement the initiatives they spoke about.  I took so much away from these discussions and learned that in Ireland there is vast potential for the aquaculture industry to grow and expand but that the growth is not taking place at its full potential due to a variety of challenges such as policies and stigmas surrounding the industry.

After the seminar we had dinner as a group and some of us spent our evening at a local pub chatting with each other and local farmers. It was very clear that the people who are involved in the aquaculture industry in Ireland are completely committed to what they do and work hard to provide healthy and safe crops. Hearing first hand stories of what farmers have experienced was very eye-opening. Between storms and critics of the industry the farmers have to deal with more than just their operations.

The next day we did two farm tours. The first was at Murphy’s Irish Seafood mussel farm operation. We toured through the processing areas and offices. The farm sits on the edge of the coast with amazing views and perfect conditions for mussel farming. Murphy’s Irish Seafood has been growing since 1983 and performs three main types of farming: mussels and various seafood products, organic salmon, and organic mussels. They distribute their fine products all around the globe and have their own hatcheries, farm sites and mussel growing stations.

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After touring Murphy’s Irish Seafood, we got on a boat and toured a Marine Harvest Salmon farm. It was a tour around beautiful Bantry bay with the owner of the farm himself operating our boat and taking the time to answer questions about his operations. The Marine Harvest site uses pens in open ocean water to provide the optimal conditions for their fish. This allows for natural flow of water and keeps the fish happy and schooling properly. The Marine Harvest staff on the boat were fantastic hosts and answered everyone’s questions openly. Another plus was having the chance to talk to the Marine Harvest staff about the potential for Deep Trekker ROVs on their farms for monitoring and inspection purposes.

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Having the opportunity to visit the farms and see the operations first hand created the perfect learning environment for us. We took away so much from these tours and had a fantastic time to boot. Overall the tours provided the benefits of both teaching us about the farm operations as well as building business relationships.

To conclude the tours we were kindly asked to join a local farmer for lunch on Whiddy Island. With beautiful views and great company it was the perfect end to an insightful day. That night the group travelled back to Dublin to enjoy some dancing before touring the Guinness brewery the next day. After our tour we boarded our flight and made our way to Norway for AquaNor 2015.

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Overall the Atlantic Canada Mission was absolutely amazing. We had a great time meeting and getting to know so many amazing people. I learned a little bit from every person I spoke to and shared my knowledge of Deep Trekker and ROVs in return. It was definitely a trip that we will remember for years to come.

A special Thank You to Kathy Kaufield for sharing some of her beautiful photos with us.

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