THE region's only oyster farm has won a major new wholesale contract after receiving a grant to invest in new equipment.
Lindisfarne Oysters, which is run by the Sutherland family at Ross Farm off the coast of Holy Island, received more than £25,000 in funding from England’s Marine Management Organisation and the European Fisheries Fund towards the £100,000 grading and washing machine.
The equipment can clean and sort up to 9,000 oysters an hour, helping the business to clinch a contract with Wright Brothers, which requires 4,000 to 5,000 oysters a week to supply to top London restaurants.
The farm has now set itself the initial target of supplying 250,000 oysters a year and ultimately aims to process one million shellfish per annum by 2015.
Christopher Sutherland, who runs Lindisfarne Oysters with his wife Helen and their three children, said: “The equipment sorts and grades in two hours the same quantity of oysters that we used to do in a day using a pair of scales.
“It means we can supply lots of oysters which we couldn’t do before. When I first took over the farm from my father in 2003 the numbers of oysters we produced was very low, but we’ve continued to build our knowledge and skills and hope to eventually produce up to 250,000 a year by 2013.
“This is the second grant we’ve received through European funding schemes. The first was in 2007 for a specialist oyster boat, which made the process of farming the oysters significantly easier.
“The latest grant will help us significantly with our expansion plans as it will help us to put the necessary infrastructure in place.”