Thursday, April 10, 2014

10/04/14: David Mack, Organiser, Aquaculture UK

Aquaculture UK’ is an event that has come of age. It is almost exclusively focused and serving the Scottish salmon farming industry but has strong links to Europe, Northern Europe specifically and Norway in particular. As Scottish salmon farming has grown so to has this bi-anneal event. Aquaculture UK has become a meeting point for industry, allowing for the necessary exchange of ideas, developments and information that is so essential to continued growth. There is just one man behind ‘Aquaculture UK’ - he is David Mack and is familiar to us all. IAF has invited him to answer a question or two about how he initiated an event that has developed into such an important venue for the fishing industry in the UK, and what the future holds should Scotland’s claim for independence succeed.

What is your background in aquaculture and why did you set about organising an event such as ‘Aquaculture UK’, why select Aviemore for its location and is there a philosophical aspect to its development?

Having been in the fish processing industry since 1975 when I was approached by Skretting in 1988 to start up a UK subsidiary of Aquatess, going into aquaculture seemed a natural step.

Traditional fishing and processing were declining in the UK whereas aquaculture was new, exciting and possibly (as we now know) the future. There was real feeling that we were pioneers and indeed some of the kit then was as outmoded compared to today's as covered wagons are to hybrid cars.

In 2006 UK aquaculture companies had become very dissatisfied with the trade show then held in Glasgow. I was just on the point of retiring and saw an opportunity to bring the event back to it's roots and meet the wishes of the industry for a "freshening up".

AquaUK's predecessor show had initially been held all over Scotland, but by 2006 there was little appetite for holding it in Glasgow, far away from where the industry operated.

A quick canvass of attendees at the Glasgow show that year showed almost total unanimity for a move back to the Highlands. Aviemore, where it had been held before, is the town with the best exhibition and conference facilities and is centrally placed as a location so seemed a natural fit.

On the question of philosophy there is not much; simply opportunism and the urge to have a go!

How do you see the reach of the event? Is it a Scotland/UK event only or is it fully international?

In Europe and the Americas the major species grown is salmon. The major players in the feed, equipment and growing sectors of the industry are Scandinavian and Chilean. So it is no surprise that exhibitors at the major trade events like AquaNor and AquaSur reflect that.

However, they predominantly attract local ‘hands-on’ attendees, but with a very significant international presence. AquaUK is no different. Over 25 nationalities usually attend reflecting that multi-nationalism . So it is like its bigger overseas sister shows in terms of scope.

What is the theme for this year's event and why should people attend (how many people expected)? And what conferences, seminar are you planning?

This year's conference has the first day devoted to the Novartis Young Scientist Competition with a very valuable prize for the winner.

The theme of the second day is: "Challenges and opportunities for Scottish Aquaculture". Presentations on that day will include ones on possible land-based systems, offshore and renewable technology and the threat from invasive species.

Is the economy recovering in terms of aquaculture? What is the future of the event? Should Scotland go independent will that impact your event in future?

Aquaculture – and ignoring one offs like the disease problems in Chile a few years back - has had an unvaryingly upward growth trend globally which has often been at variance with the economic trend in the countries of activity.

In Scotland we have had several years of rapid growth even during the recession and this is reflected by the growth in the show.

The current UK recovery can only help maintain that growth I believe. And, though it pains me to say this as someone bitterly opposed to Scottish independence, I doubt that it would make the slightest difference to the industry. The show's growth will follow the industries' growth irrespective of who runs the country.

 The Aquaculturists
This blog is maintained by The Aquaculturists staff and is supported by the magazine International Aquafeed which is published by Perendale Publishers Ltd.

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