Cuairt suas – A round up!
Well yet another year has almost passed, where does the time go?
Given that it has been a wee while since the last blog post, I thought I would write up a summary post that details all the little bits and bobs we have been up to lately. It also seems to be a nice way to elegantly tie up things before the year end.
So, without further ado (or should that be adieu?) …..
This continues, and we are now in a place where we have 4 BST systems completed. This gives us enough space to happily accommodate all of our current stock as it grows out, however the challenge is always to keep up with any new stock we introduce, and we shall need to continue working hard to build out the farm for the next couple of years to keep pace. This year has been challenging because we are now in a situation where we also have to manage the stock on site, and as such there are competing interests that both have to be accommodated.
Our plan next year is to build out another 4 BST systems at minimum. This is going to require a slightly different approach to be taken but given all the hard lessons that we have learned we feel that this is an achievable goal.
This was the first year that we have had commercial volumes of stock on site and it has been an interesting experience. Although oysters are only small they grow exponentially, what was one basket can rapidly expand into six, and this growth cycle needs to be managed if good quality product is to be harvested. This means lots of handling, handling of high volumes of shells which are increasing in weight all the time, ergo lots of hard work.
This year we have constructed our own grader which has been a huge success and developed a good protocol in regard how to process the oysters through this. Late last year we actually lost a lot of oysters due to an unfortunate equipment failure, which has now been resolved, but this did have one positive, it lessened the effort required in performing gradings and allowed us to experiment with the activity to find out what worked best for us. This puts us in a good place for next year when there shall be greater volume to handle.
In regard to stock numbers we now have two year groups of each type of oyster on site. The year old stock had a great summer, the pacific oysters in particular. Those pacifics have now been graded into their final densities and should be ready for sale from the end of next summer. The year old natives also did well and have been thinned down but of course they shall require quite a bit more looking after. The new seed we put in this year is also doing well and we shall be keeping an eye out for the spring plankton bloom as we want to grade these around that time to maximise their growth opportunities.
As for new stock next year, the plan is to introduce further batches of both type of oysters in similar volumes to last year. Having said that though, there could be interesting developments ahead which could change that plan.
Another side project that we have started working on is the building of a small distribution centre. The goal is to have a space from where we shall dispatch all of our product. At the distribution centre we shall also be able to hold stock in tanks, which can also be used to purify the shellfish if necessary.
This shall allow us to be more efficient in regards to stock handling, and separate the business into two streams, primary (farm) and secondary (dispatch).
More to follow on the distribution centre as we get up on its feet.
As for the trial, I think we can safely say that it is now complete. Given that we are now in the progress of building the farm, it also safe to assume that we consider the trial to have been a success!
We still have trial stock on site but with one thing and another numbers are growing smaller. In an ideal world we would have sold most of the stock by now, but the continued red tape around getting approval means we are not yet positioned to do so, which is a shame and also means they are taking up valuable line space, but hopefully this shall be resolved shortly.
The Pacific oysters (Rock oysters – Crassostrea gigas) are now gigantic, most are 200g plus now, but it is hard to tell as they are in fact too heavy for the scales we have on site. This raises an interesting point around harvesting because from a consumer point of view these are now simply too big to provide a comfortable eating experience in their natural state, a raw one would be a heck of a mouthful! That does not mean there is no value in them, it just means that these are now more suited to cooking and this might actually suit many people better anyway. This is what we have being doing with them; they are simply fantastic flashed fried in Japanese breadcrumbs with a wasabi or horseradish dip. The best “scampi” you shall ever eat? Oh yes indeed / tha gu dearbh.
The Native oysters (European Flat oysters – Ostrea edulis) have now also reached commercial size and the grow out period is around twice of the pacific oysters. I have mentioned it before, but it is hard to believe that the two oysters are from the same species given that they are so different, from look, growth characteristics and even down to taste. Our view is that these oysters just have to be eaten in the natural state, and that it would be a such a waste to cook them. The taste profile is completely different to the rock oysters, they have a much meatier texture and a subtle but distinct metallic tasting finish that lingers delicately on the palate. Some would argue that they are an acquired taste but we think they are just stunning and appreciate why they are the oyster connoisseur’s oyster of choice. Of course, this does not mean the Pacifics are not great to eat raw too, they are!
And so, the initial trial is now complete, but this does not mean our experiments and trials are over. We have new ideas that we plan to trial next year, so keep an eye out for further updates on those.
As I have mentioned already the plan for next year is to continue building the farm out. Next year should be a watershed point, as we expect to start selling product and so generating some cashflow. That shall be most welcome as this business has a long run in where no return is made.
In addition to that, there are also other developments afoot that could transform the business. It is very early days and so we are not in a place to say much more but stayed tuned for, fingers crossed, news of an exciting development for us!
We shall leave it there for this year, and so,
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ùr