turbot farmer DEFRA UK

DEFRA helps Lincolnshire’s first turbot farmer – A LINCOLNSHIRE farmer’s son has just set up the first turbot fish farming business in England with the help of a grant from Defra’s Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES).
Jonathan Stow of School Lane in the village of Grayingham near Gainsborough has always been keen on fishing and after gaining specialist qualifications in Scotland and practical experience in the fish farming industry he decided it was time that the family holding diversified. This summer he travelled to France to collect and place 6,500 juvenile turbot into his newly installed re-circulation system in a temperature controlled building on the five acre holding. By January the fish should have grown from 5g to between 500g and 1kg and will be ready for sale to restaurants and fishmongers throughout the UK.

The farm plans to produce up to 25,000 fish per annum. Jonathan said: “Turbot farming is a relatively new industry in the UK as it is quite technologically advanced and fish farmers have so far specialised in traditional British favourites such as trout, salmon or oysters. But British consumers are getting more adventurous nowadays – particularly in restaurants – and like to try fish they have eaten on Mediterranean holidays or seen on TV cookery programmes. “Turbot is a large flat fish with white flesh and a subtle refined flavour. You don’t need to add fancy sauces – it’s great steamed, baked, fried or grilled with a few simple ingredients.

I’m sure once people try it they will want to eat it again and again.” The next stage in the Stows’ project will be to market their turbot to restaurants and consumers who previously would have bought sea-caught fish, which tends to be seasonal and therefore expensive. One very promising area of sales could be specialist Chinese supermarkets and restaurants. Turbot is very popular in Chinese and other far eastern cookery.

The Chinese chefs prefer to buy their fish live – so the opportunity of buying straight from an English fish farm should be welcomed by many oriental restaurants and caterers. Once fully operational the Stow’s fish farm will be able to produce 25 tonnes of fish annually and will have the potential to supply customers throughout the year.

Robert Powell, an adviser for the Rural Development Service in the East Midlands said: “This is an exciting RES project as it is not only bringing a new industry to rural Lincolnshire but is demonstrating how science and commerce can come together to benefit a rural business. The Stows are now providing full-time employment for three people at the fish farm and there is potential for further growth. I look forward to seeing Lincolnshire turbot on the menu in as many restaurants as possible in the future.”

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