Tassie co to 'print' directly onto oysters

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Tasmanian Oyster Co has developed a new CO2-based laser etching process to etch a brand mark on shells, helping to identify and trace shellfish products across global markets.

Laser onto oysters: New technolgy from Tasmania
Laser onto oysters: New technolgy from Tasmania

The successful commercialisation of the technology is expected to add $7m in revenue to the local oyster industry.

With a $223,000 co-funding grant from the federal government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), Tasmanian Oyster Co’s new technology aims to differentiate Australia’s Pacific oysters from other highly-farmed items which make up 80 per cent of the world oyster supply.

The company has developed a prototype hardware system for the automated processing and laser etching of individual oysters through three elements; a vision system for the identification of the unique and variable shape of the oysters, a soft-grip automated robot to correctly orientate and align the oysters for accurate delivery to the laser, and a CO2 laser for etching of symbols on the underside of the oyster to identify the provenance of the oysters.

“Probably one of the biggest challenges is being able to distinguish our product from others, either here or in export markets. AMGC helped us expand our thinking to export markets,” said Tasmanian Oyster Co project manager Simon Rechner.

“We think Australian oysters are some of the best in the world, but being able to market overseas is very difficult. An oyster sold in Singapore, Japan and Australia, without something on it to say where it comes from, could be from anywhere – our new technology changes that and gives us a great opportunity post-Covid to grow our brand.” 

Tasmanian Oyster Co will also work with Cromarty to design, engineer and build the prototype and systems for other states and export, as well as The University of Tasmania for R&D, and marketed through Tas Prime Oysters. It will later be offered to growers in other states within the $112m Australian oyster market.

“What Tasmanian Oyster Co will do is add value to their product through the adoption of advanced technology, while also being able to highlight the country of origin for their products,” said AMGC managing director Dr Jens Goennemann.

“In developing this new technology Tasmanian Oyster Co will also streamline shellfish processing, open up the greater export potential for their products and, possibly, even exports of the new technology.”

Successful completion of the project is expected to create twenty Australian jobs across the engineering, manufacturing, sales and service disciplines in the long-term. 

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