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 and create new 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%.
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."