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Eday salmon farming housing project scoops sustainability prize

The houses in Eday use air source heating systems, wooden cladding and wind-generated power.

Scottish Sea Farms celebrated winning the Economic Sustainability prize at the annual Aquaculture Awards as their project to provide much-needed housing in Eday was recognised.

In eight years, the Eday farm has grown more than 1.6million premium salmon with a combined market value in excess of £44million.

Farm manager Phil Boardman said that while the conditions for growing salmon off the island were superb, the remote location had made recruitment difficult.

With just 76 habitable properties for a population of 129 people, the lack of affordable homes threatened the long-term viability of the salmon farm.

This led to the company working with local landowners Willowstream to address the housing shortage.

The solution was to introduce a two-week on, two-week off shift pattern, and remove the inter-island commute by building high-specification houses that staff could go home to after each shift.

Mr Boardman, together with Northern Isles regional manager Richard Darbyshire, approached Willowstream and, in partnership with Kirkwall-based architect Leslie Burgher, conceived a 1.5-acre, six-strong development of homes in the secluded area of Mill Bay.

The holiday lodge type houses were designed to be as eco-friendly as possible, with air source heat pumps which absorb warmth from the air outside to heat indoors; cedar wood cladding to help insulate the homes and reduce overall energy use; and wind-generated power from two existing adjacent turbines, among other features.

The project was completed early this year, with the first occupants taking up residency ahead of the farm receiving its next generation of fish.

Mr Boardman said: “The difference now is huge. The team are happy both at work and out of hours with a proper chance to rest and recharge between what can be long and tiring shifts. It’s great to see.”

Architect Leslie Burgher said: “I’m delighted to have helped Scottish Sea Farms and Willowstream realise this excellent project to create much needed homes on Eday. Strengthening the communities on Orkney’s outer isles is something very close to my heart.”

The company’s Noelia Rodriguez also scooped the Finfish Farmer of the Year Award.

Scottish Sea Farms managing director Jim Gallagher was the first to congratulate his inspiring staff for their achievements.

He said: “I am delighted for Noelia, who continues to go from strength to strength, and for our Eday homes team who, by thinking bigger picture, have improved conditions for colleagues and very possibly shaped a new business model for ensuring more of our remote farms remain viable in the long-term.”

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