Innovative oyster baskets made by Australian firm SEAPA are selling well in the U.S. and France and leading the company to establish offices around the world.
SEAPA, based in Adelaide, South Australia, has grown significantly in the past 12 months after introducing oyster baskets that maximize the natural movement of the ocean to develop premium oysters, according to an article in The Lead, a news site covering South Australia.
SEAPA is now selling more than 100,000 baskets a year, which are manufactured in Adelaide by its parent company, Garon Plastics.
“The business has grown significantly in the past 12 months and we’re looking for further growth this year,” SEAPA’s International Business Development Manager Andy Will said. “We’ve had a dramatic shift. Up until then 25 percent of our market was export and 75 percent was in Australia – primarily in South Australia and Tasmania. Now it’s about 75 percent export – a big chunk of that is into the U.S. – and 25 percent domestic.”
Originally designed for adjustable long line oyster farming, in the past three years new models of the baskets have been adapted so they can be retrofitted to different farming techniques, including the increasingly prevalent sub-tidal technique in deeper waters, according to The Lead. The SEAPA baskets are attached to long lines in rows similar to a vineyard and utilize the natural currents of the ocean and tidal movements to gently rock the baskets, moving the oysters around inside.
“The oysters respond well to movement – that leads to a nice cup shape to the shell and it builds up the muscle and the more muscle the better,” he said. “What we sell is a system that we would argue allows farmers to produce the highest quality oyster possible with as much efficiency built into that process. France is definitely a good example, the feedback we’ve been having is that purely based on the quality of the oyster that’s coming out, for every dozen oysters they are selling, they are getting one Euro extra and have won some gold medals at the Paris Food Show.”
The company has now established offices in the United States, Ireland, France, and Japan and has local staff in each region. The company also has clients in Mexico, Canada and Portugal. Will said employing local staff overseas and having stock close to market were important factors contributing to SEAPA’s export growth.
“An Irish farmer wants to speak to a guy with an Irish accent,” Will said.“Americans love Australians but they want to do business with someone who is American – France is the same. It doesn’t work for us just to go in and say this is the Australian way of doing business because people will put up with that to a point but if you want to do the long-term play we’ve got to invest in understanding them rather than the other way around.”
According to the company, the United States and Japan produce about 250,000 metric tons of oysters annually, while France produces about about 100,000 to 150,000 metric tons per year. Australia produces about 10,000 to 15,000 metric tons of oysters each year, less than one percent of the world market.
Oysters Australia President Bruce Zippel said the oyster industry in South Australia “probably has the best growing technology in the world as far as the half-shell premium market goes.”
“It is an expensive system compared to other traditional systems but the fact that these guys (SEAPA) have been growing their sales around the world is a good sign that the technology is being picked up,” Zippel said.