Aquascot – Investing in Our Partners

Aquascot was founded in 1987 and has been deeply rooted in the Scottish Highlands for over 30 years. In 2008, the journey towards employee ownership (EO) began as part of the succession plan for the previous owners of the business. The owners at the time wanted to ensure that the business remained embedded in the Alness community – providing local employment, driving growth and retaining its influential position in the Scottish aquaculture sector. Employee ownership was identified as the best strategy, allowing all employees in the business to have an input into the future of Aquascot. In 2016, we became 100% employee-owned.

Operating from two sites – the Head-Office and main production facility at Fyrish and our added-value production facility at Riverside, Aquascot produces a wide range of products: from whole prepared salmon and trout, through to products such as fillets, loins and portions, lightly smoked salmon, and an extensive range of easy to cook meals. We currently employ around 200 people from our local community and are one of the UK’s major processors of Atlantic salmon and trout.

We began trading with employee-owned Waitrose in 1993, and over the years the relationship has developed into a unique exclusive partnership, built on trust and understanding. This has become the essence of our thinking – building and maintaining strong, lasting relationships with our customers, supply chain, employees, and the local community in order to create a sustainable business.

At the beginning of 2020, we were optimistic about the year ahead and were exploring options for new equipment and processes, but these plans were soon expedited by the global events of March 2020. In response to the majority of UK residents suddenly living and working at home, the Waitrose customer demand for Scottish salmon from Aquascot quickly rose by 16% on the previous year. As a food producer, our company’s ‘key worker’ status was soon established, and swift decision-making was vital to ensuring production did not cease and partners remained safe.

Our partners were incredible in responding to the demands that were placed on us by the COVID crisis. With this, the Partnership Council, as ‘The Voice of the Partners’, have been at the forefront of ensuring that partners feel and experience the value we place on them. In the last year, the Leadership Team, the Aquascot Board, the Aquascot Trust and the Partnership Council have been working together to connect partners with investments being made.

Firstly, we have issued two bonuses – a COVID bonus and the April profit share. There were different approaches taken for each and feedback was mixed, so a small team was set up last month to explore options for changing our profit-share model. This work involves looking internally at what works and doesn’t, as well as looking externally at other EO companies. We plan to communicate and implement any changes to profit share by the end of year.

More recently, this has included the implementation of the Reward & Recognition scheme. We needed to put in place a system to make sure staff efforts to break yearly, weekly and daily production records didn’t go unnoticed. Partners are recognised for the contributions they make to the businesses, whether this is taking on additional tasks within the area they work in or taking on responsibilities in extra workstreams, such as the Partnership Council or the recently formed Environmental & Sustainability Focus Group and Charity Group.

We are focused on our partners’ wellbeing, with a well-established Health and Wellbeing Committee including Mental Health First Aiders. The role this team has in supporting partners in times of need is invaluable and is firmly aligned with our core value of ‘Naturally Kind’.

Earlier in the year, we saw the upgrading of the Riverside canteen and toilet facilities. This has continued with the refurbishment of a newly acquired building, which will be used both for hot-desking and as a meeting space. Work will soon be moving on to the Fyrish office area, including extending the canteen area. The PC have been resolute in recognising that these improvements are considered of high importance by our partners. In line with our core value of ‘Actively Ambitious’, we will be looking at what’s next, along with our ‘Great EO’ focus group, to ensure we have a plan to create facilities that go above and beyond the basics in the future.

The other area of improvement currently in progress is ensuring that our policies are reflective of being EO and the values that we have defined. In the previous year, the PC achieved the goal of obtaining an additional 2-day holiday per partner. This year, we have been working closely with the HR team on the Compassionate Leave policy – now significantly amended to grant bereaved partners paid time off to ensure they feel sufficiently supported by Aquascot during difficult times. The Maternity, Paternity, Shared Paternity & Adoption policies have been undergoing a similar review.

There is no doubt that this past year has challenged each and every one of us in unprecedented ways, but Aquascot has been able to thrive thanks to the commitment shown from the outset by our partners, willing to step up and protect our livelihood, which is our business. The overall adaptability and the flexibility across all of the teams has been the key to being able to achieve spiking volume requirements and demands. Our partners truly are Aquascot’s most valuable asset.