Two award-winning oyster farms, from Wapengo Lake and Nelsons Lagoon, have joined Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC) after a couple of years of challenges from bushfires, floods and COVID-19.
AOC’s executive chair Mike Lukin said the purchase of the farms from Mimosa Rock Oysters’ John Blankenstein, and Kingfisher Oysters’ Warwick Anderson and Lee Primmer, strengthened the supply of premium oysters from Wapengo Lake, a popular estuary famed for its sweet rock oysters and pristine environment.
“Acquiring these farms from two award-winning farmers aligns with our focus on consistent supply of high-quality oysters,” said Mr Lukin.
“That John [Blankenstein] is joining our management team speaks volumes about his trust in us, and in the Appellation brand.”
Mr Blankenstein’s passion and many successes has earnt him an impressive industry reputation since beginning his oyster journey five years ago.
Recent accolades include four gold medals at the 2021 Sydney Royal Agricultural Show, and being named as a 2021 state winner in the delicious. Produce Awards.
He said the development came after the South Coast oyster industry endured stock losses and a diminished market following the Black Summer bushfires before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“But you just have to rebuild and refocus,” said Mr Blankenstein.
“It’s also just accepting the consequences of where you live and work. You can only prepare yourself so much.
“If you’ve got that in the back of your head, it helps you deal with it.”
He added it takes at least three years to grow a rock oyster for market so losses from that period could still be felt for a time to come.
“You’re constantly planning on a three-year cycle so if you have a chink in the chain during those three years it eventually catches up with you,” said Mr Blankenstein.
He said the acquisition by AOC will alleviate the stress that comes from facing conditions the industry has experienced during the past couple of years.
It is a welcome change for Mr Blankenstein who has worn the many business caps of an oyster farmer: family man, farmer, grader, shucker, compliance officer, sales manager, marketer, educator and advocate.
“The acquisition of Mimosa strengthens my ties with the entire team while providing the support required to allow me to reach my full potential,” he said.
“There are a lot of pressures that come from building up a farm as an owner operator. This takes that burden away.”
Mr Blankenstein plans on building on the farm as well as concentrating on growing fantastic oysters. He also wants to champion the industry and environment through the production of oysters, as well as the regions they are grown in.
AOC’s acquisition of Kingfisher Oysters from AOC board member Mr Anderson and his wife, Ms Primmer, further strengthens supply from the popular Wapengo estuary that enjoys huge demand from Australia’s fine dining restaurants for its premium grade rock and Angasi oysters.
“Lee and I have continued to supply very high-quality Sydney Rock and Angasi oysters to Australia’s Oyster Coast since we joined the company in 2015, building a strong link with customers who love the very special characteristics of our Wapengo product,” said Mr Anderson.
Kingfisher Oysters has maintained an excellent reputation in the market, winning local shows in Bega and Pambula and many gold and silver medals at the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show during the past five years.
According to OceanWatch Australia, in 2018-2019 the NSW oyster industry produced about 76 million oysters worth $59 million at the farm gate.
NSW has about 280 oyster farming businesses spread across 32 coastal estuaries.