Growing market for innovative baskets

Oyster baskets Designed for adjustable longlines, SEAPA’s baskets have been adapted for suit other farming techniques

Oyster baskets that improve farming efficiency while growing a higher quality product are helping an Australian company penetrate international markets.

SEAPA has been making its innovative baskets in Adelaide, South Australia, since 1998 but has grown significantly in the past 12 months on the back of strong sales to the US and France.

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, such as the French method or the increasingly prevalent sub-tidal technique in deeper waters. The company has now established offices in the United States, Ireland, France, and Japan and has local staff in each region. It also has clients in Mexico, Canada and Portugal.

“There’s been a lot of time and investment put in to get us to this point and we’re only just scratching the surface in some of these large markets,” said SEAPA’s international business development manager Andy Will.

“We’ve been in the US since 2003 – we made a lot of mistakes, there’s no overnight success there but now we’re getting to the point where we are actually at the table. France is very similar. We’re just starting to see the potential in those markets.”

The SEAPA baskets are attached to long lines in rows similar to a vineyard and utilise the natural currents of the ocean and tidal movements to gently rock the baskets, moving the oysters around inside. The unique design of SEAPA baskets maximises the natural movement of the ocean to develop quality oysters, particularly for the premium half-shell market.

“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. 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,” he said.

SEAPA sells more than 100,000 baskets a year, which are manufactured in Adelaide by its parent company Garon Plastics.

The adjustable long line oyster farming method was developed on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula and is now being used to produce premium oysters throughout the world. Oysters Australia President Bruce Zippel said this had been partly driven by a gradual shift in demand in the western world from bulk meat oyster products to premium half-shell oysters.

“Australians are very good at developing technologies and then selling it to their competitors, we’ve seen it in agriculture, wine and the oyster industry is no different,” he said.

“The oyster industry here 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.”

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