Farm Tender

Ag Tech Sunday - Game changing digital solution

By Renata Gortan

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Ewan McAsh designed SmartOysters to solve his farming pain points and now both he and other oyster farmers are reaping the benefits – leading to improvements in everything from financial performance to mental health.

Ewan McAsh's farm has 30,000 oyster baskets in the water, of which 600-1,000 a day are handled and he came up with Smart Oysters as a way of keeping track of the status of each basket

Oyster farmer Ewan McAsh was looking for a better way to farm. One that wouldn’t leave him tied to the river all week or tired from having to think about it all the time.

The 40-year-old Australian farmer with leases in the Clyde River, about three hours south of Sydney, was frustrated that farm operations left little time to attend to the business side of things. He also struggled to scale his business because aquaculture is traditionally an underbanked industry.

To solve both problems, he created SmartOysters. The GPS-enabled app, which launched late 2017, drew on his 16 years of experience running an oyster farm. It not only helped him navigate what needed to be done on the farm, but it was also pivotal in securing finance to grow the business and, most importantly, freed up his headspace.

“SmartOysters is all about operations. I designed it because there was nothing else on the market that fulfilled my needs,” explains McAsh.

“Users can go about their business and the app will capture their unique farming practice. Being able to personalise it is important because the challenges of farming are unique to a certain location. Everything a farmer learns is often captured in their memory and that knowledge is what’s needed to scale and grow,” he adds.

Digitising farm operations

“My farm has 30,000 oyster baskets in the water, we handle 600-1,000 a day, which are picked up or redeployed to up to 200 locations. To grow good oysters, you need to know where they are, what they are and when you need to go back to grade or dry them,” he says.

The app provides data-driven insights to farmers, while simplifying their day-to-day workloads© Smart Oysters

“If one of these things are missed, it has a disastrous effect. At the end of the day we are looking after an animal’s health, they are filter feeders, so we don’t have to feed them, but we do have to look after them. Just like any other animal, in order to grow them to be a good quality product you have to look after them and keep them healthy.

“You don’t vaccinate or medicate oysters, they’re a natural, organic product, but the things you have to do are quite labour intensive and spread over a large area.”

Every oyster farmer faces different challenges – from barnacles, to tides, to weather patterns.

“These challenges are unique, you can’t pick up my oyster farm and put it in another river because the scheduling and methodology are unique to where we grow, they’ve been developed over the years from trial and error,” McAsh explains.

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