When Mahurangi Oysters came up for sale, Jim Aitken saw an opportunity to do what he had always dreamed of doing.
Jim, 26, studied marine biology and aquaculture at Otago University and says producing something from the sea has always been a major goal for him.
After university, he joined a company farming salmon, but was drawn to oysters partly because he loves shellfish and also for the environmental benefits of aquaculture.
He says oyster farming is the most sustainable kind of way of producing protein.
“Oysters filter water so effectively and are able to store carbon better than trees,” he says.
Jim farms in the Mahurangi Harbour and near Scotts Landing and says local oysters compare favourably with any in New Zealand, including the pricier Bluff oysters, which tend to be more expensive simply because they are a more recognised brand.
Mahurangi Oysters places a strong emphasis on freshness, which often sees Jim out on the water at 5am, harvesting to order. Oysters are then processed and packed, and on an overnight courier by mid-afternoon for delivery to customers’ doors early the following morning. All oysters are shipped whole shell, with a seven day-chilled shelf life.
He says it can be tough some days wading through ankle deep mud and being bashed around by the wind and the rain. But on quiet mornings when it’s still dark, there is something special about seeing the luminescent algae travelling in his wake.
Other pleasures include seeing how much his oysters have grown after just a few weeks.
“It’s a satisfying feeling – you have done all this work and this is the result,” he says.