ohnson Seafarms, Europe's only organic cod farming business, began with a breakthrough in cod rearing techniques at the North Atlantic Fisheries College in 2002.

The family-owned company was offered the college's 5,000 cod when it wound the experiment up, and Johnson Seafarms decided to try rearing 200,000 of the fish commercially with the backing of some go-ahead private investors.

But when the salmon farming industry was buffeted by a series of food safety scares, the Shetland family was forced to sell the business. A management buy-out took place in 2003 that quickly turned the whole operation over to cod.

Instead of following the salmon farming industry into large-scale production for wet fish counters, the new management decided to create an organic, sustainable, branded product.

The company worked with the RSPCA, WWF, the Soil Association and even Greenpeace, and sourced off-cuts of herring and mackerel caught for human consumption in order to create the fishmeal on which the fish are reared.

It doesn't use chemicals or defoulants on its nets, doesn't medicate the fish, and low stocking densities provide improved fish welfare.

"There was a lot of negative publicity about salmon at the time and we saw it as an ideal opportunity to address all the issues and see if we could put a new species on to the market as well," said MD Karol Rzepkowski.

Staff numbers have grown to 100 at the 23 sites, harvesting about two million fish per year, and turnover of just under £4m is expected to treble over the next year.

No Catch...Just Cod fish launched last spring and is listed at Tesco and Sainsbury, with Booths interested along with international retailers.

Several top London restaurants are also serving it, and it won supreme champion at the Scottish Food & Drink Excellence Awards at the first attempt.

It is 50% more expensive than standard cod and is sold at the cold counter only, not frozen.

"The price of wild cod is rocketing," said Rzepkowski. "How much longer is there going to be wild cod on the supermarket shelves?

"We believe that people are willing to put their money where their mouths are and support us in doing it right, and not just copy the salmon farmers and turn cod into the chicken of the sea."