An oyster sorter that runs off solar power is making the workload a lot easier for the owners of DEon Oyster Company, formerly known as Eel Lake Oyster Farm, in Yarmouth County.
On Aug. 1, a group of invited guests took a short boat ride to a barge to see the machine demonstrated in Salt Bay.
The oyster farm originally focused its growing efforts in Eel Lake but now grows 75 per cent of its product across the road in Salt Bay, where a new “business park on the sea” has been developed by the Municipality of Argyle.
DEon Oyster Company is a family-run business that focuses on the sustainability of sea-farming. The husband-and-wife team of Nolan and Kim D'Eon founded the company back in the mid-90s and since then, all three of their children have played a part in helping the business grow. Their youngest son, Colton, is the operations manager and works with the company full-time. Their oldest son, Nick, is a chartered accountant who does the company’s financials. Daughter Nicole (who holds a teaching position) helps out doing deliveries at busy times.
The farm also creates two seasonal full-time and two summer part-time positions.
Nolan D’Eon says the mechanization came as a result of a family brainstorming session.
“We spent five days figuring out what we could do to boost up our company and this is what’s going to do it for sure,” he said.
The machine was purchased from Australia and D’Eon says the seller’s whole family came and stayed for three weeks to set it up.
He added that similar machines exist but would require a barge five times the size used in Salt Bay. This fits on a 12-by-12-foot barge.
Prior to the machine, the oysters were manually graded after being brought ashore and transferred to a warehouse on the property.
Now they are hauled from the sea onto the barge and dumped onto a creeper belt where two workers check for small or dead oysters. The shellfish continue up another conveyor belt into the machine, where they are separated by size and counted. Its rate of speed can be adjusted but is usually set at 120-130 per minute.
“For us it really works and does what we wanted it to do,” said D’Eon.
While running, the machine uses 10 amps. Lithium ion batteries store the solar power.
“Even though it was cloudy for a week, we still had enough storage in the battery banks to run this machine for a week,” said D’Eon.
“I know there are some (machines) that are faster than this, but for us three guys, it will do 20,000 oysters a day. It’s like four times faster than what we were doing before.”
D’Eon says they also are doing their best to reduce their carbon footprint and use of single-use plastics by having processing completely powered by solar energy, using bungee cord to close gear rather than plastic zip ties and using already-in-use outboard motors to power hydraulic systems rather than having a hydraulic powerpack.
Last fall, the business received $99,904 in funding through the Atlantic Fisheries Fund to install the Oystek oyster grading system complete with elevator, separator and solar panels for producing the power to run the grader for the oyster aquaculture site in Salt Bay. The total project funding was $123,755.
More about DEon Oyster Company Ltd.
- There are 3 million oysters growing in the oyster farm at any one time.
- The company exports 90 per cent of its product to Ontario, Quebec and New England, with the remaining 10 per cent going mainly to restaurants in Halifax.
- In 2012, the company won the Taste of Nova Scotia Prestige Award for the Consumer Choice Product of the Year.
- The business began in 1996.
- In 2015, the company was awarded the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award.