Last week I visited Norway’s third largest city, Trondheim. It was hosting the world’s largest aquaculture show, where businesses from around the world exhibited a spectrum of novel solutions.

HIE worked in collaboration with the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre and Scottish Government to bring a Scottish Pavilion to Aqua Nor. The amazing hive of activity and conversation which flowed effortlessly on the pavilion was made possible by the extensive collaboration and planning by all involved.  Indeed it was quite a compliment to see Scotland featured in the daily Aqua Nor press release and Norwegian TV filming on our pavilion.

I cannot exaggerate the scale of Aqua Nor or the breadth of solutions of show. It was clear to see that AI and data is embedding itself in the industry alongside engineering and science. It was great to see small and new enterprises showcasing alongside large well established international businesses. Small businesses are often very nimble and entrepreneurial and the pod holders on Scottish pavilion illustrated this. 

Alongside business meetings, I appreciated the opportunity to catch up with Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands and to meet the Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Ocean Policy. 

I enjoyed taking part in the Innovation Nation’s Panel. HIE’s Elaine Jamieson chaired a lively discussion which explored how different aquaculture-producing nations fund, drive, adopt and commercialise innovation. Salmon is the UK’s largest food export. All of it is produced in in the Highlands and Islands. 

Elaine Jamieson (left) and Stuart Black (far right) at the Innovation Nation panel

I was able to present how HIE continues to work with businesses in the region and partners to drive forward sustainable growth in aquaculture. It was insightful to learn about the research and development taking place in Norway and Faroe and I hope we can pursue areas of common interest with our neighbours.

I rounded of my time in Trondheim with a boat trip out the fjords to see two new farm systems currently being piloted. The industry is not without its challenges, and it was very interesting to see how businesses are developing, scaling and testing the farm models of the future. I was struck by the synergy between renewable energy and aquaculture, both sectors where our region and Scotland has a breadth of experience and talent.  

Providing we ensure the sector can grow sustainably, the future for aquaculture and the communities it supports in the Highlands and Islands is promising.

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