Story of an Oyster

1. The Hatchery

Typically, the life of a South Australian commercial oyster starts off in a controlled hatchery environment where they are spawned and grown out to spat size. Algae is grown for their food which is carefully managed under specific conditions to promote strong, healthy growth.

2. Spat

Once of sufficient size, viable oyster spat are carefully fed and nurtured in secure and controlled hatchery and raceways before being introduced to marine environments. Spat sized oysters are usually 4-6mm by the time they are ready for deployment onto farms. Spat is deployed to sea onto aquaculture leases in exceptionally fine mesh trays or baskets for protection and to prevent escape while they grow in their first 4-8 weeks until their first grade.

3. Grow Out

Once the oysters are graded for the first time, usually in gentle water or shaker graders, the juvenile oysters are redeployed into 6mm and 12mm baskets to rumble and harden. Oysters are filter feeders and feed on the algae and nutrients in the ocean when submerged. As the oysters grow, the basket becomes more crowded necessitating another grade and advancement to larger mesh size baskets. Pacific oysters typically take 15-24 months to reach consumption maturity.

4. Grading

To promote even growth and provide optimal growing conditions, oysters are brought in to the farms onshore facility and graded usually between 4-6 times throughout their life to manage their growth and ensure their baskets are not fouled to promote good water and food flow.

Various grading methods are employed including: by hand, gentle water shakers, vibration shakers, tumblers, and automatic computerised pneumatic grading machines.  Grading oysters into consistent sizes and the removal of any dead oyster shell is important for: promoting healthy and strong growth; hardening and shaping shells; and discouraging mortalities.

As they grow bigger, fewer oysters are placed in each basket to allow sufficient room for growth. For instance, a spat tray may contain several thousand spat sized oysters initially and following several grades, and by the time they are ready for market, they have as little as 50-60 oysters per container.

5. Ready For Market

Our farmers carefully harvest and package their market-ready product to order, in accordance with South Australia’s strict Shellfish Food Safety Program for dispatch to all states in Australia and export overseas.  Often farmers work with brokerage partners to connect producers with customers. Oysters are graded a final time by hand or computerised pneumatic air graders to ensure consistent sizes are packed.

Packaged oysters are labelled in accordance with strict harvest labelling requirements and freighted by refrigerated transport from our growing regions to their domestic and international destinations, for example: customers direct; seafood processors; retail outlets; restaurants; seafood markets; and farmers markets, often attended by the farmers themselves!

6. Experience Oysters

Our growers take great pride in producing premium Pacific and Angasi Oysters fresh to customers and many sheds are open daily for fresh ‘shell-a-door’ sales so you can grab yourself a few dozen and take a tour with one of the various experiences on offer in our growing regions.

Find a grower or an oyster experience here by visiting our SA Oyster Trail Map profiling our South Australian Oyster Grower Association Members by growing region.

South Australian Growing Regions

Find out more about the diverse regions for growing Oysters here in South Australia – CLICK HERE

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