Episode 20 - Mussel Bound
On the next episode, screening 30 July 2016 at 7pm on TV ONE:
The green-shell mussel is native to New Zealand and till 40 years ago no one had any idea if they could even be farmed. But in the Kiwi way, a bunch of pioneers gave it a go.
John Young was one of those trail blazers and he describes farming the creatures as the hardest but most satisfying thing he has ever done.
John says mussels require a Goldilocks environment where everything must be just right in order for them to thrive. This applies to water temperature, the amount of nutrients, the density of their spacing and even the effects of the tides.
Frustratingly the blue mussel the one farmed everywhere else in the world is nowhere near as fussy as our native species and they compete for space with the greens. A big part of Johns job is waging war with blue mussels to prevent them from taking out his crop.
John has played many roles in his 40 years in the industry. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science from Canterbury University in 1974, John spent the next 10 years working as a scientist for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, trying to establish if mussel farming was viable in the Marlborough Sounds.
In that time he was involved in setting up the very first long line of Mussels with pioneering scientist Jim Jenkins. This innovation revolutionised the industry. Other farmers saw the idea and quickly copied it.
The barrier to entry in the industry was lowered. The basic components needed to farm where just rope, buoys and know-how. Anybody could become a mussel farmer if they had access to water space and were willing to work hard.
John and his partner Lyn Godsiff saw an opportunity to capitalise on this burgeoning industry. They built their first seeding boat La Barca (the Barge) in 1984 and began contracting for other farmers. It was lucrative work but it proved to be dangerous for Lyn.
She tells the story of how John, unfamiliar with the crane on board the new vessel, unwittingly knocked her out and overboard. John says he quickly hauled her out of the water then used a combination of whisky and a warm shower to coax
Lyn into finishing the job theyd started. His wife can laugh about it now but she still has the scar to prove the story is real.
After contracting for a decade the pair decided they should focus on acquiring more farms of their own and since then their rise has been meteoric.
John says they would enter into any arrangement to get a share of water space. They didnt need 100% ownership of the farms, just agreements to share in their yield.
In 2007 they partnered with fishing giants Andrew and Milan Talley to form Clearwater Mussels, with John as general manager.
The Havelock-based company is now New Zealands second biggest mussel farm, providing work for 27 employees, exporting to over 60 countries and generating a substantial portion of the $300 million a year that New Zealand earns from mussel exports.
John and his wife Lyn Godsiff became the first marine farmers to win the coveted Lincoln University South Island Farmer of the Year award in 2015. They shared their win with Omarama sheep and beef farmers Annabelle and Richard Subtil.
Award co-winner Richard says, Theyve created an entire sector from nothing. Its like if we started sheep farming 3000 years ago and started from scratch. Its inspirational what theyve done.
For more about Clearwater Mussels visit: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/78767491/havelockbased-mussel-farmer-a-master-of-tricky-gems
For more about John Young, visit: http://aquaculture.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Spreads_ANZ-October-2014.pdf
For more about Tim Young, visit: http://www.aquaculture.org.nz/our-people/tim-young
For more about the Lincoln University South Island Farmer of the Year award , visit: http://www.lincolnuniversityfoundation.org.nz/farmer-of-the-year
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