Along the southern coast of Tasmania lies the Coal River Estuary – one of Australia’s most fertile aquaculture regions. The picturesque location is home to Barilla Bay Oysters, who have been growing some of the country's finest oysters for over 30 years.
In 2016, Barilla Bay General Manager Justin Goc turned to The Yield’s aquaculture solution to help combat several environmental challenges that were having a major impact on his operation.
Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome, or POMS, swept through Coal River to devastating effect in early 2016. In a matter of weeks, POMS took out an entire season’s harvest for many growers, almost bringing the local industry to a standstill.
Justin, along with 300 fellow Australian oyster growers, now has Sensing+ Aqua hardware inside his harvest areas, in a bid to better understand environmental conditions. Sensing+ measures a number of important climate conditions including salinity, water temperature and depth, barometric pressure and sea tide height. The data is transferred to The Yield’s Microsoft cloud platform, where artificial intelligence and data science convert it into 3-day predictions. Information is delivered to Justin via an app, which helps him plan activities like grading and harvesting.
Most importantly Sensing+ gives Justin an insight into temperature profiles in his environment. As the sensors record more and more information, Justin will also gain a greater understanding of the conditions that are most likely to spawn the disease.
“Having this infrastructure in the water is integral to understanding the problems we face. For example, we’ve seen temperature increases over the last three years, which resulted in an outbreak of POMS,” Justin explains. “The historical data in particular is going to be incredibly important, because, in the future, I believe we’ll be able to see in advance when we will get hit.”
Reducing harvest closures
Justin also experiences operational challenges due to harvest area closures. This is because oysters are filter animals – so food safety regulators shut down harvesting when heavy rains can wash contaminants into bays. The decision to open or close harvest areas has typically been done by monitoring rain gauges from public weather stations that could be many kilometres away.
The impact of these closures is significant, resulting in financial losses of between $20,000 and $100,000 a day depending on the season. Based on a detailed analysis of available data, it is estimated that Sensing+ Aqua can reduce unnecessary harvest closures by 30 per cent by providing reliable local data.
For Justin, Sensing+ Aqua gives him hyper-local conditions three days in advance, giving him time to get crews on the water before bad weather arrives. He can also record important harvest information like mortality and grading using the web app.
“What we need is information that helps us make decisions, and that’s where The Yield fits in. Their solution gives us a roadmap of what is going on in the water, which has always been difficult to quantify. Twice already this year we were faced with lots of rain and changes in our environment. With The Yield’s technology we were able to prove that the impact from water run-off was not significant enough to make us close.”
Food Safety Regulators View
Sensing+ Aqua is also available as a portal for food safety regulators. The web-based system gives regulators a bird’s eye view over harvest areas under their care, helping them to manage openings and closings with greater speed and confidence.
Within the portal, regulators can administer their shellfish food safety program within a simple interface, including setting up harvest areas and leases, setting triggers for opening and closing, and efficiently managing communications.