A recently established oyster farm on Barra is expanding its operations and investing in new equipment with the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Tràigh Mhòr Oysters is a new venture between A.P. Jess, the family owned food group and Isle of Barra Oysters Ltd, owned by Gerard Macdonald and based on the island. As part of the deal, Tràigh Mhòr Oysters Ltd has purchased the full share issue of Isle of Barra Oysters Ltd and is fast becoming one of the largest producers of quality oysters in Scotland.
HIE awarded funding of £490,000 to assist with the expansion of production and the project is expected to create new employment in the Isle of Barra.
Tràigh Mhòr Oysters is investing in stock and new equipment to help meet the demand from Scottish and UK markets. As production grows, the company plans to explore international markets such as France, Spain and the Far East where demand for live shellfish is growing.
On a recent visit to the company on the Isle of Barra, HIE chief executive Alex Paterson, said: “This is a great opportunity for Tràigh Mhòr Oysters and for employment on Barra. The company has a great product, extensive experience in the aquaculture sector, and clear potential to grow. I am delighted we are able to support their plans and look forward to continuing our relationship with them as they grow.”
Unlike oyster farms throughout most of Europe, which grow the oysters in baskets in sub−tidal waters, Tràigh Mhòr Oysters will employ a method similar to that used for growing mussels and scallops. This process will involve the mooring of headlines on site with drop lines spaced out along them.
The oysters feed on natural plankton making the industry is sustainable and environmentally friendly, and the oysters have a lengthy growing cycle with the first harvest expected in 2016.
David Jess, from the A.P. Jess Scottish Food Group, said: “We are delighted at our new venture with our partners on Barra and are looking forward to a new stage in the development of A.P. Jess. Barra is a beautiful Island and one advantage of the site in Barra is that it's remote from any possible contaminants. The waters are absolutely pristine, which gives a great marketing opportunity and it's great to know that people can enjoy the oysters in as fresh a condition as possible.”
The new company has created six jobs with more in the pipeline as the business grows and markets develop. Around six million oysters are currently being farmed with another four million being added this year as the infrastructure develops.