Fish Vet Group: perfectly placed to support Scotland’s aquaculture industry

Based in Inverness, Scotland’s aquaculture epicentre, Fish Vet Group offer services right across the aquaculture value chain. Find out how the company’s collaborative approach helped it become one of the world’s leading aquaculture healthcare providers.

The Highlands and Islands are home to many of the aquaculture industry’s key players. With its strong transport links, Inverness sits right at the heart of the region’s thriving sector and is the ideal location for FishVet Group’s head office.

Chris Matthews, FishVet Group Operations Director

Most of Scotland’s aquaculture takes place in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, where the pure, clean waters provide the ideal conditions for finfish, shellfish and seaweed to thrive.

FishVet Group provides services right across the aquaculture value chain, from producers and processors to retailers. The group offers veterinary services, diagnostic technologies, environmental monitoring and training, with operations around the world, including Norway, Ireland, Chile, Brazil and North America.

The company is part of the Benchmark group, an international biotechnology company working across the production lifecycle to provide producers with products and services that tackle disease and environmental challenges, increase efficiencies and improve product quality.

As a young veterinarian working in equine practice on the Black Isle, Chris Matthews became aware of the area’s burgeoning aquaculture sector, and he was eager to learn more. Now Operations Director for FishVet Group, Matthews is keenly aware of the opportunities that the aquaculture sector can offe

“We started out as an aquaculture veterinary practice, and that core activity still sits at the heart of what we do,” says Chris Matthews, FirstVet Group, Operations Director.

“Over the years we’ve continued to provide frontline, proactive support to aquaculture producers, helping the industry to grow. We’ve gradually added more strings to our bow, and are now a multidisciplinary company able to support the sector from concept to production.

Chris says, “We provide a wide range of services – from primary veterinary services and health consultancy to laboratory diagnostics. We also have an environmental team, which carries out sediment health checks, lab analysis, freshwater and shellfish surveys and statutory surveys. And our training arm provides a mix of practical, online and classroom-based training in aquaculture and welfare.

“Highlands and Islands Enterprise has been a tremendous help over the years, particularly in the early days,” Chris explains. “For example, they helped us secure funding for fairly critical new bits of kit, including a digital slide scanner which was quite revolutionary. This really helped us as we diversified and grew.”

A SPIRIT OF COLLABORATION

Inverness is increasingly being recognised as important to the Highlands and Islands’ thriving aquaculture sector, with excellent transport links and a diverse and growing hub of experts based in the area.

FishVet Group plays an important role in this nationally and internationally significant cluster of health and life science related activity. With many parallels between its work and that of other organisations based in and around Inverness, FishVet Group has already began collaborating with others in the area:

“I see increasing collaboration between groups in the region on aquaculture,” says Chris. “There have been some ambitious targets set for the industry, which will only be possible with a collaborative approach to solving the barriers to this. We’re hoping to work with other local groups and organisations to share expertise and skills and continue to advance the area’s reputation as a leader in the sector.

“For example, we’re currently working with Scotland’s Rural College on a project looking at gill health. By partnering with leading international veterinary epidemiologists, we intend to investigate and ultimately find solutions to complex issues such as this. We certainly plan to keep taking advantage of the leading facilities and expertise we have right here on our doorstep."

A THRIVING SECTOR

Chris says, “While living in the Highlands and working as a vet, I became increasingly interested in the aquaculture industry, so I made the decision to study a Masters in Aquatic Vet Studies at Stirling University, which is one of the very few specialist fish vet courses.

"After I finished my course, I moved back to the region and I haven’t looked back. I now co-ordinate FishVet Group’s activities in the UK from our Inverness head office. I’m excited about the opportunities and plans ahead as we continue to diversify and evolve.”

We’re always looking to attract, and keep, highly talented graduates, and it’s definitely becoming easier to recruit skilled staff here. We also see the advancement of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) as being good for us, and eventually hope to employ UHI graduates. “Inverness is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and there’s a growing number of talented people being drawn to the area for both jobs and the excellent quality of life. People sometimes arrive and don’t expect to stay but they try it, love it, and don’t leave! People and their families can build a really good life here.

Chris Matthews, FishVet Group Operations Director

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