Oyster Production Receives $11 million Funding Boost for Flip Farming

oyster flip farming in Marlborough Sounds

Production of Pacific oysters (tio) is expected to increase from 1.2 million dozen to two million dozen year-on-year by 2024 after Moana New Zealand – the country’s largest Iwi-owned kaimoana and kai ora company – received an $11 million Provincial Growth Fund loan facility.

Oysters are placed in baskets and then submerged at various depths to grow, encouraged by the ocean’s natural tidal movements. Flip farming replicates these movements by semi-automating the basket flipping process, encouraging growth. This is usually a manually laborious process requiring skilled workers year-round to turn baskets by hand – no mean feat with oysters’ 18-month growth cycle.

Now, a regional funding model made available to Moana New Zealand via the Provincial Growth Fund will allow commercial expansion of oyster production according to Chief Executive Steve Tarrant.

“We’re really pleased to have secured regional funding which is to be invested in sustainable marine technology, infrastructure creation and the human capital required to facilitate that long-term.

“Implementation of the project is expected to smoothly navigate resource consent processes, with Northland Regional Council already providing written approval and Waikato Regional Council reviewing consent currently.

“Last financial we were pleased to grow our tio business by ten percent, so the loan is also an acknowledgement of our value of whakatipuranga in safeguarding fisheries for future generations,” he says.

Fiona Wikaira, General Manager Operations – Shellfish and Meals, says permanent, full-time employment positions are expected to become available throughout regions in which Moana New Zealand farms and harvests oysters.

“Early indications show more than 30 jobs at Parengarenga, Whangaroa, Coromandel, Orongo and Kerikeri, which we’re obviously happy to announce in the context of this difficult year.

“We’re committed to continued delivery of talent pipelines as part of our 2023 aspirational oyster plan,” says Wikaira.

Moana New Zealand will utilise the Provincial Growth Fund loan facility to remove historic infrastructure, purchase and construct ‘flip farm’ componentry, commission contractors, ensure water quality standards are met and conduct training.

Increased processing capacity and implementation of new packaging technology – which isn’t subject to Provincial Growth Funding – in Moana New Zealand’s Wiri plant may also create more jobs. More than 30 jobs are expected across Northland, Coromandel and Marlborough Sounds.

Steve Tarrant
Chief Executive Steve Tarrant