Carlingford Oyster Company invests in new production facilities

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Carlingford Oyster Company invests in new production facilities

Carlingford Oyster Company invests in new production facilities
May 17
11:37 2024
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The award-winning Carlingford Oyster Company has improved efficiencies and the quality of its harvest following an investment of more than half a million euros in new machinery and production facilities. The County Louth business, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is producing 250 tonnes – the equivalent of 2.5 million oysters – a year, and has its eyes set on increasing exports to Europe.

The business invested €535,000 in upgrading its facilities with the support of a €142,000 grant under the Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme implemented by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). The scheme is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Carlingford Oyster Company was founded by Dutchman Peter Louët Feisser, who sailed into Carlingford Lough on a wooden yacht with his wife Anne in the late 1960’s. The visit was intended to be a short one, part of an epic journey around the world. But mesmerised by the Lough’s natural beauty and the rugged County Louth coastline, the couple fell in love with the area – and didn’t go home.

Peter had an interesting background having been incarcerated in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp when his family lived in the then Dutch colony of Indonesia during World War 11. The Japanese military had taken over the colony in 1942 and put Dutch nationals in internment facilities.

After spending a few years in Co. Louth Peter heard by chance an item on BBC Radio 4 about oyster growing. He was enthralled, and in 1974 the Carlingford Oyster Company was born.

Now aged 86 and officially retired Peter can still be found working in the Lough at low tide with his son Kian (pictured), who today runs the multiple award-winning family business with his wife Mary.

According to Kian the recent investment has seen significant improvements and efficiencies at the company. “Oyster farming is very labour intensive and the investment was designed to make the company more competitive, and to secure the livelihoods of our team and my family.” said Kian. “The premises were built in 1992 and it was a big open space and we really needed to upgrade.

“The work included extending our production facility, adding equipment to help us segregate and grade oysters and improvements in the dispatch areas. Modernising our working environment has supported us meeting the evolving requirements of food safety inspections, and the expectations of our customers when visiting our premises.”

In addition, the company added new depuration tanks with cutting edge water skimming technology to mitigate the risk of Norovius; a forklift, a pallet truck, a new water grader and floating oyster growing bags.

Said Kian: “All of these machines have helped us not only improve efficiency and working conditions, but they have also helped improve the quality of our oysters and therefore our customer satisfaction.”

At its peak last summer the business employed 30 local people, something which Kian is very proud about. Sales to the UK represent about 60% of total sales with approximately 20% of sales in Ireland. He is currently focusing on sales in mainland Europe with support from BIM and Bord Bia.

Carlingford Oyster Company was one of the first farms to grow gigas oysters, the frilly Pacific variety that is now well-loved across Ireland, but was rather novel at the time.

In recent years a Visitor Experience with farm tours and oyster master classes was added, all part of a plan to improve the customer experience and to give people an incentive to come and visit and taste the product. Carlingford Oyster Company recently hosted 15 London-based Michelin Star chefs on a trip organised by Bethnal Green Fish Supplies and supported by Boyne Valley Flavours, Sea Louth Seafood Trail and local restaurants.

“Without the support of BIM and the Brexit funding we would not have been able to achieve all we have under this investment, and we are very grateful. The future is certainly looking bright.” said Kian.

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