Hospitality Business February 2022

Page 14


FlipFarm Systems & Marlborough Oysters


humble Marlborough oyster farming business has put Kiwi ingenuity on the world stage after developing and designing its own innovative, semiautomated oyster growing system. In just two years Marlborough Oysters owners Aaron and Debbie Pannell now have their FlipFarm Systems technology patented and sold in 12 countries, operating on 70 oyster farms worldwide. Late last year (Nov, 2021) the couple fended off 39 other applicants from 24 countries to scoop the 2021 Global Aquaculture Innovation Award at the Global Seafood Alliance Awards, held virtually. Now recognised as world leaders in oyster farming technology, their systems ensure delivery of a superior, quality product. Previously, under the old manual system, it was

World leading technology. heavy work involving a lot of heavy physical lifting, says Aaron. The former system proved ineffective and the equipment would wear out and during stormy weather they would lose hundreds of oyster growing bags. This not only impacted their bottom line, and negatively impacted the environment, but meant staff were regularly called on to make repairs and retrieve lost equipment. “All individual baskets or bags would have to be removed numerous times during the two-year growing cycle with lots of repetitive handling required,” he says. “We had a dozen fit guys working on this, but we were finding it difficult to retain staff, our Marlborough equipment would also break free and Oysters owners wash up on the shore.” Aaron and Through “a series of random Debbie Pannell. circumstances” Aaron says he came up with the line of attached baskets that can be manipulated automatically. They can also be operated from machinery attached to the company’s boats. “We can “Because our also flip the baskets over and sit them on their process is now float, elevating them out more mechanised we of the water. This dries can employ staff from

different demographics and backgrounds,”

Early this year distribution channels throughout New Zealand are expected to be established. 14 FEBRUARY 2022 - HOSPITALITY BUSINESS

out any biofouling - a process called desiccation, killing any fouling larvae.” It’s important for the oysters to spend a short time out of the water as this develops the muscle they use to hold their shells together when out of the water. “They need that strengthening exercise to provide good shelf live after harvest,” says Aaron. Oysters are normally grown in shallow, muddy, tidal type waters but these are cultivated in 12 metres of water. Growing in deeper, more oceanic water ensures a cleaner, higher quality oyster and a fresher flavour. “They’re quite high in salinity and there’s no muddy aftertaste. It’s a very clean shell because of the wave movement.” There have been social advantages too. “Because our process is now more mechanised we can employ staff from different demographics and backgrounds, as there’s less physical strength involved,” he says. In recent times we have employed more mature, experienced staff and a number of women which has been a really nice byproduct for our company culture.” Debbie, a global traveller and corporate girl, worked in the optical industry for seven years before

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