Media Release

Pambula leads NSW Oyster Tech trial

Monday 26th September

Today Member for Bega and NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance, launched the NSW trial of technology that is destined to change the economics of oyster farming in NSW creating hundreds of jobs.

The trial, supported by funding from industry, Landcare and the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, uses real-time salinity data to reduce unnecessary harvest closures and improve farming productivity. 

When it rains, oysters can accumulate contaminants in run-off and the NSW Food Authority shuts harvest areas to protect food safety. Reopening currently relies on meat and water testing which is time-consuming and expensive for the industry. 

With the support of the NSW Food Authority, the trial will bring Pambula into line with international standards used in other states, such as Tasmania, which opens harvesting based on salinity levels. Salinity is a cost-effective measure of run-off with salinity levels dropping when fresh water enters the harvest areas reducing unnecessary closures by up to 30%. Across NSW this would save $5.64 million in lost sales and $235,000 in meat testing.

The technology was developed by AgTech business, The Yield, and has recently been rolled out across 80% of Tasmania’s oyster harvest areas.

Minister Constance said ‘Oystering is a way-of-life along the NSW coast creating an iconic product, jobs, and investment in our communities. This trial shows how Government can work with industry to use technology to cut red tape without reducing the food safety standards critical to our reputation for high quality safe food’. 

The NSW oyster industry is worth $40.6 million at farm gate with a total value to regional NSW of $160 million including farming, processing, transport, tourism and food services. The oyster industry supports 1400 jobs in regional NSW.

NSW Farmers Association President, Derek Schoen said ‘the technology will play a critical role in achievement of industry’s plan to double oyster production with the potential to create 750 new jobs in rural communities. Reducing unnecessary harvest closures is a top priority’.

Pambula oyster growers are contributing to the cost of the trial. Greg Carton, Coordinator of the Pambula River Shellfish Program, said ‘Oyster growers in Pambula are proud to be leading the state

in applying new technology in our industry. Like all farmers, innovation and technology, will be key to our future’.

 

Case Study - Pambula River

 

Pambula River is in the Bega Valley Shire on the far south coast of New South Wales.  There is only one harvest zone in the lake which is shared by 28 growers who employ another 10 farm hands.  In 2015 Pambula oyster growers produced more than 500,000 dozen Sydney Rock Oysters worth approximately $3.1 million at farm gate.  During 2015 the Pambula harvest area was closed for 165 days due to weather which is estimated to have cost the harvest area $1.05 million in lost production.  Growers paid $6,600 over the period in meat and water testing to re-open.

The Yield modelling has conservatively estimated that moving harvest management plans to salinity testing can reduce closures by 30%, potentially increasing production value to more than $4.15 million.  The Yield's solution will be rolled out across the NSW oyster industry in 13 harvest areas and is estimated to generate an additional $18.8 million in production value through the reduction of unnecessary harvest closures.

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High resolution image available on request.

For more information, contact:

Clare Rutherford for Ros Harvey, Managing Director of The Yield on 0414 018 543 or at clare.rutherford@theyield.com

Shannon Whitford for Minister Constance on 0407 599 984 or at Shannon.Whitford@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Adair Moar for Derek Schoen, President of the NSW Farmers Association on 0418 477 198  or at moara@nswfarmers.org.au

Greg Carton, Coordinator of the Pambula River Shellfish Program, on 0414524064.