THE UK’s largest producer of farmed trout has unveiled plans to invest £16 million and create 36 jobs in the west of Scotland, in a show of confidence tothe country’s growing food and drink sector.

Dawnfresh, which already employs more than 500 people in Scotland, has submitted scoping reports for four fish farm sites across Argyll and Bute and North Ayrshire as the first steps in the planning process.

If approved, 36 fulltime jobs will be created across four off-shore sites at Ardentinny, Isle of Bute, Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae.

They would increase Scottish trout production by around 7000 tonnes per year, which equates to a value of £45.5 million of yearly production based on current market value – almost doubling the production level.

Additional downstream jobs will be created and safeguarded through the supply, servicing and maintenance of the sites. Employment for suppliers elsewhere will be supported through boat and feed barge construction and equipment provision, with further positions created in processing.

The sites will operate using state-of-the art aquaculture equipment, leading the way in the Scottish aquaculture sector’s development of high-energy locations.

The firm has also vowed to host community engagement events in areas near the potential new sites. Alison Hutchins, Dawnfresh farming director, said: “We believe our investments will greatly benefit the local economy in each of these areas and the wider Scottish economy.”