- Local landowner Johnny Noble and marine biologist Andy Lane started the Loch Fyne Oyster Farm in 1978. Since then, they have grown it into a global business.
- They export internationally to Barbados, South Africa, and Hong Kong, as well as stocking in prestigious London retailers.
- But what makes these oysters so special?
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Loch Fyne farms Pacific oysters, which can be found at various locations on the Scottish coast. These oysters are harvested all around the world, including France, Australia, and New Zealand.
Pacific oysters constitute 80% of the global oyster trade and were introduced to the UK in 1964 to replace low stocks of the British native oysters. The native variety can be more expensive and rare, but also riskier to consume.
The Scottish lochs have unparalelled water quality. And this loch in particular is of class A purity at least six months of the year.
Safety here is paramount. Loch Fyne monitors the water constantly for toxins, as do the local authorities. To eliminate viruses, each oyster undergoes a series of checks, starting the moment it arrives from the hatchery.
The oysters are grown for up to three years in specialised baskets, which allow for movement and controlled exposure to the tide. This process also affects the experience of enjoying an oyster. By regulating their size to about 120 grams for the largest and 65 to 75 grams for smallest, they can ensure the correct oysters go for cooking and others are more appropriate for eating fresh.
Any oysters imported from local producers need to “de-stress” after their journey. They are counted into bags of 100 to 150 from partner growers and placed in stillages by the waterside before being taken into the grading shed, then the depuration shed.
Tanks containing water fresh from the loch have to be kept between 8 and 18 degrees Celcius to avoid the produce “closing up.” This is the depuration process, where the oysters are purified under UV light for a minimum of 42 hours to kill off any nasty bacteria.
The tanks are then drained, and the oysters are packaged. The oysters are tapped together, making the sound of two stones being tapped, to ensure they are fresh. The oysters here have a nine-day shelf life.
The nearby Loch Fyne Oyster Bar sells them fresh for £2, or $US2.44, each. They can also be ordered as cooked dishes; with garlic and parmesan, or anchovy, smoked cheddar and chilli sauce.
Loch Fyne exports nearly 35,000 oysters every week. Just over 1.8 million a year. Production here might be at a comparatively smaller scale, but the business has multiple won awards for its taste and quality, including the Queen’s Award for Excellence: International Trade.
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