FlipFarm, a semi-automated oyster-growing system created in New Zealand, has won the Global Seafood Alliance’s 2021 Global Aquaculture Innovation Award.
FlipFarm Managing Director Aaron Pannell helped launch the company while looking to improve his equipment at Blenheim, New Zealand-based Marlborough Oysters, where he grows 15 million oysters per year. The company’s existing oyster-farming system involved clipping plastic bags to lines that floated on the surface, which would regularly be lost to severe storms in the region.
“It was a lot of handling – individually handling one unit at a time,” Pannell said. “We had 40,000 bags and they all had to be sorted about every eight weeks. It’s a lot of work.”
This led to the invention of the FlipFarm system, a semi-automated oyster growing setup in which Hexcyl Pro baskets are connected to a backbone that rolls up on the side of a harvesting vessel. It saves equipment costs in the long-run and employees from daily backbreaking labor.
“FlipFarm Systems is honored to be awarded the Global Seafood Alliance Innovation award for 2021!” Pannell said. “Considering the extremely high caliber of the finalists, we feel very privileged to win this award on behalf of our hard-working team.”
On top of being a labor-reduction tool, the FlipFarm system also helps provide an ideal environment for oyster growth and conditioning, as well as the ability to efficiently control fouling levels, pests, and predators. It’s also cultivating innovation among Marlborough Oysters’ employees.
“Because they’re not physically exhausted, they’ve got time to actually stop and think,” Pannell said. “Our guys are thinking about innovation. How can we make the work easier? How can we make the quality of the oysters better? And because the operation is so much quicker, we’ve gone down to a four-day working week.”
The system is adaptable to diverse growing environments and is now used by more than 70 farmers in 12 countries worldwide.
The winner of the Global Aquaculture Innovation Award was determined by an attendee vote. FlipFarm beat out two other finalists: Ace Aquatec, which developed a marine mammal-friendly seal-deterrent technology, and Nucleic Sensing Systems, with a tracker that can detect pathogens and other biological issues in aquaculture environments.
Photo courtesy of FlipFarm