A pair of Massey Ferguson tractors is helping specialist Anglesey sea-farming business, Menai Oysters and Mussels, process each year more than 70,000 oysters and five million mussels, all grown and cultivated naturally in the strong, nutrition-rich tidal currents of the Menai Strait.
The majority of the company’s shellfish production is sent to wholesale markets for purchase by hotels, restaurants and specialist fish shops and retailers with a growing number of sales being made also via the internet, mail-order and direct to customers who visit Menai Oysters and Mussels’ shop on a Sunday or Wednesday.
Purchased in late 2012 from nearby MF dealer, Emyr Evans, the two Massey Ferguson tractors – a 38hp MF 1540A and a 102hp MF 5440 – are being employed primarily within the initial washing processes used to remove silt, sand and other seabed detritus from the shells of the harvested oysters and mussels.
Initial cleaning of the oysters is carried out in trays using a hand-held pressure washer fed with fresh water by a high-capacity pump mounted on and driven by the power take-off shaft of the MF 1540A tractor. When all of the oysters have been washed, the tractor is driven a short distance to the mussel processing line where its external hydraulic system is connected to pumps powering the equipment’s water delivery and conveyor systems, simultaneously washing and grading the mussels as they move along the line.
Having been cleaned off externally, the shellfish is either immersed in tanks or placed on racks for further cleaning by purification using continuously recirculating seawater that has been sterilised by UV light. Minimum purification time is 42 hours to ensure that the filter feeding mechanism of the bivalve molluscs has adequate time to filter-out grit, sand and other internal impurities.
All of the seawater used by Menai Oysters and Mussels within its various washing and purifying processes is transported from the sea shore to the farm in a 6,000 litre vacuum tanker hauled by the MF 5440 tractor, the water being held in large storage tanks until needed. The two and a half miles each-way journey to and from the sea shore is made two or three times a week, depending on the season and demand for the firm’s oysters and mussels, all of which are sold to customers within the United Kingdom.
“We use a lot of sea water for purifying the shellfish so the tractor has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” explained marine biologist Shaun Krijnen, who founded Menai Oysters and Mussels in 1994 and maintains a full hands-on role in the business today. “When it’s not involved in shellfish production, the MF 5440 tractor is used for hedge-cutting, pasture mowing and local contract work, helping out nearby arable and livestock farmers.”
Bought primarily to power the oyster and mussel washing equipment, the smaller MF 1540 compact tractor spends up to 40 hours a week stationary with its engine running and power take-off shaft turning at a constant 540rpm.
“The MF 1540 replaced a larger agricultural-type tractor, consequently cutting our diesel usage by half,” commented Shaun. “The new tractor’s power output and auxiliary oil flow are far better matched to our existing equipment so everything runs more smoothly and economically. Having a foldable rollbar instead of a cab means also that we can lock the tractor away securely overnight.”
The larger MF 5440 tractor arrived on the farm two months later, further modernising the firm’s machinery fleet while splitting the existing workload over two new power units.
“As the business has grown, we have looked increasingly to invest in modern, reliable, cost-effective equipment,” explained Shaun. “Massey Ferguson was the obvious choice for us. Not only is our local dealer just 15 minutes away but we are benefiting from the company’s Manager 5-year extended warranty and servicing package that brings peace of mind to a business that relies very heavily on its machinery throughout the year.”