Q&A: Alistair Barge, Gigha Halibut
A family-run business rooted in the community, Gigha Halibut in the Hebrides, Scotland has pioneered a sustainable farmed alternative to wild halibut. Last month the company won Food Champion of the Year in this year’s Country Living magazine and Waitrose Made in Britain Award.
Gigha, founded in 2005, harvested its first halibut in September 2007 and now produces fish on a weekly basis. SeafoodSource spoke with Alistair Barge, Gigha Halibut's owner, to find out more about the business on the community-owned island of Gigha, the southern most island of the Hebrides.
How much halibut do you produce and what is the price range?
We produce 200 tonnes a year, and sell the product for an average of £7.50 per kilogram, with a range in size from 1 to 7 kilograms.
Can you elaborate on Gigha Halibut's commitment to sustainable fish farming?
There are two important strands to our business strategy: production is anchored to principles of sustainability and marketing is centered around provenance.
The land-based fish farm gives us the control of conditions to provide an optimal environment for the fish to thrive. We are careful to ensure that the operation is sustainable in every way. Water exchange rates are high and stocking densities low, this combination translates to good growth and no incidence of disease or parasites so our veterinarian and medical bill remains at zero.
We are in the process of setting up a direct electricity supply line from the community-owned wind farm to ensure our halibut are renewable. The proposed direct link to the fish farm from the wind farm represents a truly win-win situation — the islanders get more for their power and the fish farm pays less [in electricity costs].
How about feed?
We convert the byproduct of the fishing industry into high quality halibut. The feed we use is organically certified and is based on trimmings meal from the fish processors. Halibut are very effective at converting fish feed into flesh and have a high yield in terms of the percentage of flesh to inedible fish and bones for each fish.
How many other halibut farms exist in the U.K.?
There are two farms and we probably account for 80 percent of production.
Where can consumers buy Gigha halibut?
We sell in the United States and the across the U.K. Our product is finding its way into top restaurants and top retail outlets, such as Waitrose.