Last year we sold about 110 tonnes of live trout…. pause to consider that for a moment! Each load in ‘humpy’ (our fish lorry), being up (and as close to) 1 tonne as possible, requires a lot of grading. During the busy time of mid Feb, March and April the lorry will be out on average 4 days a week.
Last year we graded using a grading box (see picture), this required us to net fish from the seine net into a metal grading box. The fish once in the box were caught by hand and graded up to four ways. They were then netted back out of the box and put down a pipeline to the loading raceway or back to the pond. As well as being very labour intensive, we realised how detrimental to our fish welfare and quality this method is. Having realised, we went about researching a possible solution!
Employee partner Owen Haines (who’s got around – in terms of trout farming experience!) suggested investing in a slide grader. We realised the benefits of swapping to use a slide grader in terms of less netting and less fish out of water time. We didn’t realise the additional benefits such as actually getting a better all round look at the fish for longer. Even though a slide grader reduced the amount of times the fish were being netted, we wanted to cut it all out completely. This is where our latest purchase a blue-motion fish pump comes…. Read more about this next week! (Shameless self plug here!)
We were fortunate enough to be able to go and see what he meant at our neighbouring trout farms. A big thank you (again) needed for Dave Fuller and Mark Underhill as they were both kind enough to show us how they graded fish on their farms. Sam scratched his head and ass and came up with some rough drawings and a few ideas.
So it then came round to the painful bit, the price tag! We got three quotes for a stainless steel grader, with the best being from Dan’s Engineering Ltd. Based in Bridgewater they provided a great service, especially aiding in the design as well as a speedy turn around. Highly recommended!
We’ve had the grader now just over a month and are slowly getting use to using it. There are a few points we need to adjust but Dan’s engineering has kindly agreed to have it back to adjust them before the grading season takes off in a few weeks! We are certain that it will be an instrumental tool, required to reach where we want to get to in providing you (our customers) with the best quality fish we can!