Figuring out how to combine traditional farming practices with innovative new methods has been a recipe for success for South Australian oyster producer Angel Seafood.
A lot can change in 10 years.
When Zac Halman and his wife, Kady, first started Angel Seafood in 2010, they would sit across from each other at a stainless-steel table to sort the oyster harvest by hand, dropping shells of a similar size into tubs. These days, the automated system they introduced sorts between two and five tonnes of oysters every hour – and considering their annual output now tops 10 million oysters, that’s a whole lot of time saved.
Based in South Australia’s Port Lincoln (often referred to as the seafood capital of Australia), Angel Seafood’s oyster farms are dotted around the Eyre Peninsula at spots including Coffin Bay, Haslam and Cowell.
The Halmans were looking for a lifestyle change and a way to put their passions to work (Zac has a background in agriculture) when they noticed a glut of established oyster farms in the region were on the market, as farmers who’d been in the business for decades retired.
“We saw a massive opportunity there – we were quite young and had a lot of energy – and saw the chance to build a business,” says Zac, now CEO of the company.
They snapped up the farms and set about finding ways to combine traditional oyster farming methods with new techniques to create a business that could tap into economies of scale and liaise directly with vendors to sell their produce to them directly, rather than rely on an agent as a go-between. “We’re now in a place where we can hold our own and make our own path,” says Zac. “The traditional ways are still there but we’re on a new curve of how oysters are sold, with us being able to offer one consistent product with great credentials behind it.”
Angel Seafood is now the only certified sustainable and organic oyster producer in the world, a result of the business’s aim to innovate and adapt to changing consumer patterns while also ensuring their production practices don’t harm the natural environment. And although it’s grown to be the largest producer of clean, green oysters in Australia, Angel Seafood is still a tight-knit team of around 35, with Zac getting out of the Port Lincoln HQ and onto the icy water as often as possible.
“We make sure we don’t lose that. I’m not a suit and tie kind of guy, that’s for sure,” he says, laughing. “I love that we can make something out of nothing and make it work well as a team. The output and commitment we get from everyone makes this all happen beyond what we ever thought we could do.”
Zac’s top business tips
Stay agile: “We’re quite flexible in the way we operate; we’re quick on our feet. In these uncertain times, it’s been quite challenging but everyone has been quick to adjust and the communication channels are great as well.” During the COVID-19 crisis, Angel Seafood pivoted from selling 80 per cent of its stock to restaurants to selling almost 100 per cent into retail, with great results.
Invest in your team: Look for opportunities for team members to grow into roles they may not have considered before, including leadership and management – most of the time, they will prove to be essential to your business.
Make Qantas Points count: With staff and key investors based in other Australian capital cities, the company uses Qantas Points earned through its American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card to book flights from Port Lincoln and Adelaide..