"Aquaculture, not the Internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st Century."
Paul Drucker, Economist and Noble Laureate
I wrote this article back in 2010 and, subsequently, we worked with Thomas Shellfish to establish Wales' only producer of rope grown mussels:
"In 2005-8 I researched land-based aquaculture, hydroponics and aquaponics. It seemed to me that there was no way we could ever develop truly sustainable fishing from only open-sea fishing and sea fish farming.
I looked at successful small-scale land-based aquaculture projects in Australia, the UK, Holland and Norway. None of these proved to be economically scaleable to meet the apparent demand.
Warm-water, fast-growing varieties such as Asian Sea Bass (Barramundi in Australia) seemed the answer. New Forest Barramundi gave it a go, but ultimately cost killed it, despite marketing support from Waitrose.
My colleague in part of this study, Hamish Bichan, a leading agricultural business consultant established The Fish Company as an incremental crop for some large North-East England farmers. They are now supplying tilapia to some of the major supermarkets.
The challenge remains. Large-scale, fast growing healthy fish produced near the consumer at an economical price.
Greenpeace stated in their investigation - Challenging the Aquaculture Industry on Sustainability - ultimately, land-based tanks are the only option to eliminate damage to local habitat and wild species.
Research remains to be done in areas such as feed, disease, stocking density and specie selection on the animal husbandry side. Water treatment and environmental issues will need to be improved.
A great opportunity exists to deliver on Drucker's vision."
Thomas Shellfish are a family run business, situated on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, who have been farming mussels for over 20 years.
In the early nineties they visited France frequently and noticed the huge demand for mussels. They knew that there was an abundance of mussels off the West Wales coast and began to look for a site to farm commercially. Soon after, they secured the rights to farm mussels in Swansea Bay, where they continue to harvest a small amount of seed mussels each year.
Today their focus is on farming rope grown mussels in the Queen’s Dock, Swansea, which was certified as an Aquaculture Production Site by CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences) in 2011. They expect to produce over 600 tonnes of mussels from this site each year.
Thomas Shellfish will featured on Countryfile on BBC 1 on 1st September, 2013.
In the Sunday Times on 25 August 2103, Charles Clover said "We need farmed fish. They just can't go anywhere near the sea". I couldn't agree more.
Mussels require no input of chemical or artificial feed.
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