There are going to be a lot more oysters going through Raspberry Point Oyster Company’s doors thanks to $205,000 in federal and provincial funding for new equipment.
James Power, the company’s general manager, said the money was used to buy equipment that will allow employees to do more important work than standing all day sorting oysters.
“Actually growing more, selling more and processing more,” he said.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency recently gave Raspberry Point Oyster Co. a $195,000 loan to help the business expand. Another $10,000 was part of the provincial government’s aquaculture technology program.
Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MP Robert Goguen was at the company’s facility Monday in Cavendish for the funding announcement alongside Aquaculture Minister Ron MacKinley.
Raspberry Point Oyster Co. used the money to buy a grading machine to help with grading, counting and processing oysters at its facility where employees handled more than 6 million oysters in 2013. This year Power expects that number to grow by more than one million.
Raspberry Point Oyster Co. sells oysters under the Daisy Bay, Pickle Point, Lucky Limes, Shiny Sea, Irish Point and Raspberry Point brands.
Before the company bought the machine about a month ago, eight employees had to stand all day counting oysters and sorting them by size.
On Monday there were two employees cleaning things like sea lettuce and dirt off the oysters as they moved along a conveyor belt through the machine.
That makes sure a camera the oysters pass under gets an accurate measurement of their size.
Once the camera counts the oysters and measures them the machine shoots them out into a bin with a loud bang as it sorts them by size.
But despite needing fewer people to do the sorting and counting, Power said the company hired six more people this year because of the extra volume of oysters.
“We have that many more oysters so now we can harvest more oysters, we can grow more oysters, we can sell more oysters and with this machine we can get through them faster,” he said.
Power said the machine can be adjusted down to the millimetre to measure the oysters and he hopes to get it tweaked to handle five or six oysters per second, which is what the manufacturer claims it can do.
So far it has been handling about three oysters per second, which is much faster and more accurate than someone doing the work by hand, Power said.
“There’s no comparison.”
Despite how much faster the machine works, Power said there is no shortage of demand for the company’s product.
“Every oyster we can get our hands on we can sell.”