A startup trying to make oyster farmers more efficient just got a $1 million grant

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The Yield, a Tasmanian company aiming to improve yields for oyster growers, has just been awarded a $957,000 grant from the federal government.

The company is one of one of ten to receive grants of up to $1 million for businesses spanning electronically tracking sheep to new ways to clean boat hulls.

The Yield is focusing on the oyster industry, which is worth about $100 million a year, according to founder Ros Harvey.

She says the oyster industries loses tens of millions of dollars a year in inefficiencies, and bringing data into the mix can have a big impact.

when its ok to harvest they wave a flag

The first problem, one that costs upwards of twenty million a year, is that oysters are filter animals. When it rains the runoff from surrounding farms can introduce bacteria to the oysters which are harmful to humans. As a result, regulators don’t allow farmers to harvest whenever it rains — even if there isn’t actually any runoff in the area.

Harvey intends to solve this with sensors that detect the salinity, which are far more accurate than the rainfall method currently used. She says this could save farmers $10,000 to $100,000 every time there is an unnecessary harvest closure.

The second issue oyster farmers face is scheduling. Harvesting is a labour intensive business and because of the tides there are good and bad times to do it. The Yield is looking to provide “hyperlocalised depth predictions”, tidal information for each harvest area.

The last solution Harvey wants to implement is automated quality tracking. Farmers have to keep records, especially temperature and salinity, if they want to export or sell to certain suppliers.

Harvey says the grant money will be used to accelerate commercalisation of prototypes and to build out the data they produce to help regulators streamline processes. She views her company as a new kind of public and private partnership — a partnership using technology and data to realise efficiency.

“I think what the future is going to look like is government as a platform instead of trying to do everything itself, which it can’t afford. How do we use technology to reduce the cost of red tape?”

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