A Fife-based company that specialises in the design and manufacture of shellfish holding systems is expanding following a period of sustained growth, reports Paul Scott.
Dalgety Bay-based Todd Fish Tech, established by husband-and-wife team Errin and Keith Todd, has already increased the size of its operating premises, and is looking to add to its current workforce.
Errin Todd told Fishing News that the expansion comes following a very successful few years, despite the impacts of Brexit and the Covid pandemic.
“When you’re in business, you just have to make the best of situations. We have increased sales of our oyster and mussel purification systems because our mussel and oyster farmers could no longer export unpurified, so that resulted in increased sales, probably about 10-fold, which is remarkable,” she said.
However, the UK’s exit from the EU brought the business other, less welcome challenges. “We try to buy parts locally if we can, but there’s no getting around it, most of the parts we use, for example all the plastics, are manufactured in Germany.
“Since Brexit everything has changed. It used to be we could order parts ‘just in time’, and within a week all of our parts would be on our doorstep, but now we have some manufacturers with six-month lead times. That’s very hard for a small business to be able to look into the future.
“Last year, the demand was for oyster systems, and this year it’s for crab. There’s almost no way to know what your customers might be interested in – you might know a few months ahead, but not that far.”
Another post-Brexit challenge is an increase in minimum order volumes. “One of our suppliers, which does the fish boxes, which is an item I’ve got to buy, is a German manufacturer. They have a 5,000-unit minimum order – that’s an awful lot of lobster pods.
“We were lucky – the UK agent for that company managed to bring together several buyers to make up the minimum unit requirement – but that still meant we had to buy effectively a year’s-worth of product up front.”
The move into the larger premises was assisted by the Business Gateway Expert Help scheme, and the InvestFife programme, which is the collective brand incorporating Fife Council’s economic development services. “We are very lucky that our local council has good business support and good economic support, and they’ve built beautiful new facilities.
“Our rent is the same per square metre as it was before, but I’m now in a building that has solar panels for electricity, and we have a beautiful outlook. It’s brand new, and well insulated. It’s a nice place to work, and a nice place for our customers.
“We’ve been doing a lot more online training, which enables us to do real-time, live training with our customers. We’ve got working systems here in the showroom, so having a bit more space allows us to have that facility, which is very good.
“The new space gives us more research space – we can operate the systems, test them, try to constantly improve them, with a view to making them more energy-efficient and more user-friendly.”
The business, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in February, has been running a lobster hatchery in Fife for nearly all of that time – but not as a visitor centre, like the planned hatchery by Anstruther’s Shaun Suttie (Fishing News, 22 September, ‘Ex-fisherman aims to launch Fife’s first lobster hatchery’).
“We don’t run it as a tourist facility, we do it to have a sustainable lobster fishery,” explained Errin Todd. “We do it for our customers – because without a sustainable fishery, we wouldn’t have any customers.”
The business has also played a key role in the development of hatcheries across the UK, including the refit of the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow.
“We know our stuff when it comes to lobster hatcheries,” said Errin Todd. “Our background was actually in public aquaria, and we started the business to supply public aquaria with their tanks and equipment.
“We made our first lobster tank back in 1999, when a lobster fisherman saw what we’d done for an aquarium and asked us to make a tank for lobsters.
“It was only later that we asked: ‘Why do you want a tank to hold lobsters?’ The concept, at that stage, was about how much the price fluctuated, and if he could hold on to his lobsters for a few weeks he could double his price.
“Then we realised there’s a far bigger market in making shellfish systems than there was making display tanks for sea life centres – and the rest, as they say, is history.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.