Another key project that we have been 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 products. 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 regard to stock handling, and separate the business into two streams, primary (farm) and secondary (dispatch).
Under EU regulations we, as a food business operator, have a legal responsibility to ensure that shellfish harvested from our site are safe to eat. We work with Foods Standards Scotland and the local council to ensure that our shellfish meet the criteria for levels of E.Coli and various biotoxins, such as DSP, ASP and PSP. The distribution centre is a vital piece of this risk management process and ensures that we produce shellfish of the highest quality.
The distribution centre we have built is a small facility but we still have the capacity to process several thousand oysters per week, and if necessary we can expand it to meet further demand. We are extremely lucky to have access to an old building that was previously used as a slaughter house; believe it or not the slaughter house was actually built by my Great Grandfather about seventy years ago, I doubt he would ever have thought it would be used as a distribution centre for shellfish!
Anyway, this means that we have the ideal building, with thick concrete walls that keep it cool all year round, an existing water supply and a special soak away floor that aids in cleaning and hygiene activities. Still, it has taken time to get it ready as it needed a full clean and repaint, and we had to setup a power supply.
The key piece of equipment is the tank. Our model is an example of the standard Seafish Small Scale Shallow Tank Purification System.
All bivalves, including oysters, are filter feeders, and if there are any germs or bacteria in the water these can end up in their gut. To ensure that anything harmful to humans is purged from the the oysters they are placed in the purification system. The seawater in the purification tank passes through a Ultra Violet Steriliser. The UV kills off germs and viruses e.g. e coli and fungal cells, ensuring that the oysters are fit for human consumption.
We shall also use the tank to hold oysters until they are ready for dispatch. Operating in this fashion means that we are able to have stock on hand instead of having to try and manage orders against tides; this is a massive efficiency saving for us which more than outweighs the cost of running the plant.
In light of this development, we have also taken time to ‘tweak’ the website. We have decided to alter the structure of our web presence from a pure blog to website with a blog. We have introduced a new home page, a new products page and moved the blog to it own area. We feel that this is a better reflection of our business at this point, given that we are now fully operational.
As such, we are now at a point where the distribution centre is fully functional and all the necessary policies, procedures and permissions are in place to allow us to operate it. This has been a long journey and we are delighted to have reached this point. We are now able to process and sell product to both wholesale and retail customers; this is a watershed moment for the business and marks a big step forward for us.