The state of the oyster farming industry in 2021

Turquoise water and rows of an oyster farm

SED Graders is the global leader in automatic oyster grading technology.

We’ve been supporting local and international oyster producers for over 18 years. And while the world is certainly experiencing dramatic changes, we’re continuing to produce world class grading technology.

It’s a constant challenge to adapt to the rapid changes and developments happening in this industry. Restrictions due to the COVID-19 virus, for example, have required the company to find a way to do training remotely.

The development of ‘on the water’ floating basket handling is another example where we need to adapt our equipment to suit a new paradigm.

Another exciting development is a cold over-catch treatment machine that will fit into a SED Vision grading line.

Arranging Oyster Shells at Shell Equip

Adapting to unique challenges

The global health crisis has brought on some challenges; however, the future of oyster farming in 2021 looks positive. Owner and CEO Matthew Brown shares,

“When COVID-19 first hit, it was no surprise that our sales initially went down. Like everyone, oyster farmers wondered about the future and what was going to happen. But things quickly started to turn around and gave us all a bit of confidence.

We’ve seen a lot of farmers adapting to the situation very quickly and building resilience. Many oyster farmers used to sell to larger markets, but now we’re seeing an increase in internet and direct sales.

Most farmers now seem to be really happy with the direction the industry is going.”

Equipment for Oysters

Utilising strategic resources

Matthew is also pleased to see many farms expanding into new territories.

He adds, “Recently we have seen a number of larger farms buying up smaller ones. In fact, this has been in development before COVID-19. The industry is becoming much more business orientated now. Many farms have been too small to be profitable. Having said that, there are also some small operators who have embraced new ideas and technology and are now growing in size and profitability, which is fantastic.”

Through this, Matthew is excited to see more farms utilising oyster grading machines in their processes.

Workers can take on more productive tasks, such as growing the oysters and maintenance of the oyster farm, to further drive the profitability of the business. Everyone wins – you process more quality oysters in less time, and the workers are engaged in higher functioning roles, helping the business to grow. Culling and hand grading oysters has to be one of the more tedious jobs on the planet.”

Oysters farm in the sea

New farming developments

As Matthew looks ahead to 2021, he is also looking forward to seeing new opportunities and developments in oyster farming.

He says, “There’s a new, extremely innovative oyster growing system developed in New Zealand, called ‘FlipFarm’. Essentially, it provides an ideal environment for oyster growth, conditioning and hardening, along with the ability to have complete control over fouling, pests and predators. The system is extremely easy and efficient to use and can be adapted to many growing environments.

So, we’re starting to see farmers asking us to develop equipment that can be used on a barge to utilise or make the most of water maintenance and basket handling, much like what FlipFarm is aiming to achieve.

One of the exciting developments that we’re looking at is putting an oyster bagger onto a barge to automatically fill baskets.”

Over-catch treatment

Many farms have over-catch issues that can devalue their oysters if not treated early. The traditional method is to dip a basket of oysters into hot water for a few seconds. It’s time consuming and therefore costly and although mostly successful, comes with risks of killing the host oyster or not killing the over-catch.

“In 2010, SED Graders designed and produced a prototype ‘over-catch shock treatment’ (OST) machine for a large oyster company based in Tasmania. Due to the long time window for treatment at (30 – 60 seconds), the result is more reliable. It is still used and can process around 800 sale sized oysters per minute, treating over-catch up to about 12mm dia.

However, it is a very large machine and expensive. When Leon and Angela from Goodnight Oysters (NSW, Australia) suggested a similar machine to fit into their oyster grading line, it made perfect sense to us. Not only could the machine be small and lower in cost but would just be part of the normal grading process, so no double handling required.

If treatment isn’t required, then the oysters simply flow through if the OST system is turned off.”

Looking ahead with confidence

SED Graders is part of the solution with oyster grading equipment that reduces the highly labour-intensive work of growing oysters.

We’re continuing to find solutions to farmers’ frustrations and challenges, as well as adapt our equipment to meet changing requirements.

“We’re always working on different machines and equipment to meet the needs of our oyster farmers,” says Matthew. “We’re continuing to produce oyster graders as efficiently as we can, so we can continue to meet the demand and provide innovative solutions.”

Are you ready to make every oyster count? Find out more about our productivity-boosting oyster graders and equipment. Contact the team at SED Graders today.


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