By Scott Wright

AN Inverness-based aquaculture company is embarking on a “multi-million-pound” research and development project aimed at improving fish health, reducing the threat from predators and cutting carbon emissions.

Gael Force Group, a manufacturer and supplier of equipment, technology and services to the fish farming sector, is proceeding with the work after securing financial backing from the Royal Bank of Scotland. The company said the funding will also help it push into new markets, such as Scandinavia, noting that it was working on solutions to help the industry grow sustainably.

Gael Force was established by Stewart Graham as a creel manufacturer in Stornoway in 1983, and now employs more than 200 staff throughout Scotland, England and Canada. It supplies the commercial fishing and leisure marine markets in addition to the aquaculture sector.

While the pandemic brought “short-term impacts to business”, the fresh funding will allow its continued push into international markets, and to recruit more employees. Prior to the pandemic, the company is said to have growth in the region of 20 per cent to 25% year-on-year throughout its 37-year history.

The most up to date accounts for the business at Companies House show that Gael Force made a pre-tax profit of £2.6 million on turnover of £41.9m in the year ended December 31, 2019.

Robert Foster, finance director of Gael Force Group said: “For almost 40 years, we have been driven to partner with our customers, whether it be the established salmon farmer or the hard-working local fishing community – so we know the importance of lasting, trusted relationships.

“It’s something we have in common with the team at Royal Bank of Scotland, who have made the re-banking process as streamlined as possible. They understand our vision and our shared sentiment for sustainable growth, and we are confident this is the beginning of a fruitful and lasting partnership.”

The “flexible” package provided by Royal Bank includes working capital loans.

Barry Fraser, relationship director at the bank, said: “The company has delivered consistent growth since being established in 1983, and we are looking forward to working with the management team to help deliver their strategy in the years to come.”