Seeds of success: Major milestone for Central Coast pearl farm
NSW's only pearl farm shares exciting news that Mother Nature has bred new life into the farm's oyster production
Following two turbulent years of floods testing Broken Bay Pearl Farm to the limit, the dedicated team are being rewarded beyond what they could have hoped for...
Broken Bay Pearl Farm has been on the road to recovery from the devastating effects of not one, not two, but three major flood events in the last two years. All of which followed unprecedented bushfires and a global pandemic.
Three floods led to the biggest hit the sustainable pearl farm, located on the edge of the Hawkesbury River, had experienced since it began in 2003, wiping out the farm’s total population of adult and juvenile pearl shell.
Despite this, Broken Bay Pearl Farm has reached a major milestone this month in their recovery with the first seeding of pearl shell in many years!
Before Mother Nature prevailed, NSW’s only pearl farm was poised to expand their immersive pearl farm experiences from their ‘Shellar Door’ and introduce Akoya pearl Oyster meat, a new seafood delicacy to the local market. Broken Bay Pearl Farm was also on the brink of a major expansion since opening its doors to the public in 2018, with plans including increasing its production of seeded pearl oysters from 30,00 per year to more than 1 million to expand their offering of locally grown pearls.
“I am confident that everything we are working towards prior to the floods will pay dividends and, believe it or not, after overcoming all these challenges, I can actually see light at the end of the tunnel.”
James Brown, Owner, Broken Bay Pearl Farm
Australian Farmer of The Year, 2020
Rebuilding NSW's only pearl farm
It can take four or five to years to grow a pearl shell and then a pearl. Natural disasters can wipe out a pearl farm setting them back years and years, so losing almost all breeding juvenile and harvest ready pearl shell, for both seafood and pearls, in the first flood in 2020 was simply devastating for these sustainable producers.
Owner James Brown, the first pearl farmer to be awarded Australian Farmer of The Year in 2020, said,
“It was heartbreaking for our team to see years of hard work go down the drain and literally wash out to sea with the remarkable plume of freshwater that is reported to have gone 30kms out into the Pacific Ocean”.
However, a small number of adult pearl shell, which are found in the wild and collected by pearl divers for broodstock, miraculously survived. This has enabled the team to rebuild the pearl farm from scratch, creating the chance to start over again with the next generation of baby pearl shells.
The farm experienced less loss in the second and third floods. Owner James puts this down to their new ways of dealing with extreme weather patterns.
“With the passage of time and a massive team effort, we find ourselves with surviving pearl shell that are stronger and healthier than ever, ready to be cultured for a pearl that we hope to harvest in a few years”.
Learning from natural disasters
Broken Bay Pearl Farm know all too well that pearling is a long-lead game with best efforts ultimately resting in the hands of Mother Nature.
James confirms this,
“We learn from each major blow, how to prepare for and better handle our pearl shell and farming infrastructure in extreme and sometimes catastrophic environmental strikes. Perhaps these disasters will help people understand the true value of a pearl – the massive effort, huge risks and ultimately, the offerings of our natural world."
However, in April 2022, when James woke to the warning of a third flood about to hit the farm in NSW the same night a cyclone was bearing down on his WA pearl farm north of Broome at Cygnet Bay, he didn’t think it could get any worse.
“I am not sure it gets any more stressful than this as a pearl farmer – but our teams on both sides of the country responded incredibly well and I am proud to say that both pearl farms are well and truly on the road to recovery.”
Growing NEW pearls (and collaborations)
The team celebrate the start of pearl seeding this month and this major milestone in flood recovery presents a pathway to the ultimate goal – a beautiful gem harvested from local waters, now only a couple of years away.
This exciting news coincides with a new collaboration with the James Cook University genetics team, who are set to announce the start of an important Akoya pearl shell breeding program. While it will take years before the farm is cultivating large numbers of shell again, the building blocks to revive the business are in place and Owner James Brown is confident Broken Bay Pearl Farm can bounce back.
Like his pioneering grandfather, Dean Brown, who established the company 77 years ago, James knows that through hardship and adversity you need to innovate and adapt, find a new way forward and learn to do things better.
It was these traits that saw James, the first pearl farmer to be awarded Australian Farmer of The Year in 2020 through recognition for his innovation and after surviving the devastating effects of climate change and the global financial crisis. Ironically, this honour was bestowed just as the first flood event hit, but despite this his unwavering confidence in the pearl farm remains positive.
About Broken Bay Pearl Farm
Sustainably growing Akoya pearls, which are far rarer than diamonds, Broken Bay Pearl Farm is the only pearl farm in New South Wales.
Located on the sparkling Lower Hawkesbury River, you can join a tour of the farm to learn the lifecycle of a pearl, enjoy their newest attraction on a private lunch cruise, or browse the stunning jewellery at their signature ‘Shellar Door’. You can easily book your tour tickets online here.
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Broken Bay Pearl Farm