Brae-based seafood producer Blueshell Mussels is to move operations to a crab factory in the North Mainland as part of an expansion.
It comes after the company, whose mussels were described by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli as “the best in the world”, acquired the assets of long-standing Yell crab processor Shetland Norse Preserving Company (SNPC).
The crab factory at Ronas Voe, Northmavine is to be upgraded with the help of a £150,000 investment by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
It is a significant investment for Blueshell Mussels, and will broaden a product range which already includes mussels and scallops. It is the UK’s largest rope-grown mussel farm.
Blueshell Mussels managing director Michael Laurenson said he was pleased that the project would provide employment in the fragile rural communities of Yell and Northmavine. The proposed move was first reported by The Shetland Times in May.
Mr Laurenson said: “Providing and protecting sustainable local employment within the Shetland shellfish industry is a key objective of our family business, whilst safeguarding an important local crab processing operation: having operated for two generations SNPC was at risk of relocating outside of Shetland as the owners were looking to retire.”
Major canned fish company John West Foods, now under Thai ownership, said it was “very important” that SNPC had remained in local hands.
John West co-pack purchasing manager Alan Muir said: “We have enjoyed a 40-year relationship with SNPC who supply us exclusively with our unique dressed crab and dressed lobster products. We are very much looking forward to continuing our close relationship with the new ownership.”
HIE development manager Elaine Jamieson said it was “delighted” to support the growth of Blueshell Mussels and the development of industry in fragile communities.
“The company has extensive experience in the aquaculture sector and have [sic] grown their business with excellent results. The grant will support the company to fit out and upgrade the factory to a quality food grade standard.”
Meanwhile, Scott Welding and Fabrication, a growing business based at Olligarth, Whiteness, is to build a bespoke fabrication facility aimed at increasing its production capacity and capability.
Established in 2006 by Gary Scott, the small firm provides steel fabrication services to the aquaculture industry. It has clients in Shetland and mainland Scotland, and distributes products to Norway, Chile, Greece and Asia.
A born-and-bred Shetlander, Mr Scott has worked in the aquaculture and energy industries, gaining an understanding of the welding and fabrication needs of industry. He is now following his passion, moving to full-time work to meet demand.
The business currently works from a small workshop but is moving to a larger purpose-built facility in Tingwall. The project is being supported by up to £30,000 from HIE.
“This new building will mean the business can provide a more efficient service and allow expansion and handle bigger fabrication jobs,” Mr Scott said. “The building is expected to be completed in 2014.”
HIE’s David Priest said the organisation was “delighted to be able to assist Gary to expand his business both in terms of capacity and in product development”.
“The international fishery and aquaculture industry in which Scott Welding and Fabrication already operates is a competitive business for small skilled fabricators and success will be based on a reputation for reliability and quality. These are [things] which Gary most definitely possesses.”