An innovative Scottish salmon farm is planning to start production later this year at the community-owned Machrihanish Airbase, near Campbeltown.
It will mean up to 20 new jobs in the coming months and could eventually lead to the creation of many more in Argyll and Bute.
The company will start with two tanks, which will be housed within the former NATO airbase’s Gaydon hangar, each producing 1,000 tonnes of salmon a year.
Plans for a change of use of the hangar have just been approved by Argyll and Bute Council. A full planning application for an ambitious expansion plan is to follow, ahead of which consultations will be held with local people. The two tanks should take just weeks to construct.
Niri founder and CEO Arve Gravdal said: “We believe our methods are the best developed in the world. We’ve found solutions to all the problems small land-based farms have encountered.”
The scheme has won praise from both politicians and conservationists.
Mr Gravdal said: “Our mission is to become a leading producer of high-quality seafood on land at a very competitive cost.
“But we take our environmental responsibilities seriously. We believe our system will meet all modern requirements on fish health and welfare."
Mr Gravdal added that he aims to complement Scotland’s renowned salmon farming industry and work hand-in-hand with local producers.
David Smart, Head of Regional Development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “We have worked with Niri since the company’s initial interest in Scotland, including introducing them to Machrihanish, and we continue to be impressed by their ambition and drive.
"The aquaculture industry in the Highlands and Islands makes a major contribution to the economic viability of many of the most remote communities in our region. Niri’s decision to choose Machrihanish for this innovative project is a welcome endorsement of the potential of Argyll and the Islands for attracting new jobs and investment. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the business and seeing how the project develops.”
South Scotland MSP Chic Brodie, who helped bring Niri to Scotland said: “This is a great project. It’s good for the environment and will also be very good for the local community with new jobs.
“I introduced Arve Gravdal to Alex Salmond. His company were looking at sites in Scotland and Ireland and I’m delighted they’ve chosen a site here.
“I know Argyll and Bute MSP Mike Russell is also extremely pleased with the plans and Highlands and Islands Enterprise helped seal the deal.”
The airbase was purchased by the Kintyre community for £1 in May 2012 with a view to develop its 1,000 acres of buildings and land as a business park and attract inward investment to the local area.
Jim Martin, local businessman and chairman of MACC Development Ltd, the trading arm of the community company, said: “The Niri project is fantastic for Kintyre, fantastic for our young people and fantastic for Scotland.
“Our committee first met with Niri in December. They gave us a presentation that was first class and we were sold on the idea pretty quickly.
“We’ve signed a lease for the Gaydon hangar where the fish tanks will be built. The plan is so environmentally friendly. There are also great spin-offs, like producing fertilizer from the waste, so that will create more work.
“It’s all about the young folk for us. If we can create well paid, highly skilled jobs locally then when they go away to university they will come back and work and live here, instead of them moving away forever.
“We need to retain our intelligent young people. It’s the only way the area will thrive. Niri can be part of that.”
Niri boss Mr Gravdal added: “Everyone connected to the local community in Campbeltown has been extremely helpful.
“I would like to thank the council planners, the local people from Sepa (Scottish Environment Protection Agency), as well as David Smart and David Roberts from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
“They are helping a personal dream come true and helping launch a business that will bring big benefits to the area.”