Dungarvan Bay, with its temperate water clime, is known for its nutrient rich waters and the bay is a perfect breeding ground for an abundant bounty of delicate, flavoursome oysters.
How these delectable molluscs got to the Co. Waterford bay can be accredited to the vision of Ring native, Jim Harty.
Jim, a sixth-generation dairy farmer, and his family, who have farmed the land in a sustainable way since 1835, are dedicated to ensuring the beauty and health of the Bay, which is a special protected area.
However, in the eighties Jim was faced with an uncertain future as the recession hit and yield prices dropped dramatically. Intent on staying in the beautiful Ring peninsula and rearing his young family in the only place they knew as home, the seeds of a new venture were sown when he was invited to an oyster farming seminar in Cork.
The concept of oyster farming in Ireland was relatively unheard of at the time, but Jim was determined to give it a go. After extensive research, he purchased some oysters, trestles and mesh bags and Harty Oysters was born.
Through trial and error, coupled with the invaluable support of BIM and the Tafforets (a respected French oyster family) Jim’s business grew each year with the volume of oysters being produced increasing steadily.
Once Jim had mastered the art of cultivating oysters, he was determined to assure their quality. Again, with assistance from BIM, Harty Oysters installed its very own state of the art purification system and nursery. The nursery gives the company greater control of its stock, quality, shape and size. It also allows the company to produce the best quality oysters all year round – even during the months without an “R” in them!
Harty Oysters produce the Gigas oyster, a native of France. The oyster seed is imported to Ireland, where it is laid in mesh bags on steel trestles in the Bay and grows from a miniscule seed into a strong, succulent and healthy delicacy. Dungarvan Bay, with its wide shallow bay and two nutrient-rich fresh water rivers emptying into the sea, is uniquely suited to cultivating oysters.
After two to three years the oysters are brought to the grading centre where they are washed, graded and purified for 48 hours before being exported to hotels and restaurants all over the world.
Today the company employs almost forty people, including three of Jim’s sons Ray, Shay and Joe and his daughter Ita.
Jim’s vision is shared by his children and despite respective, successful careers Ita, Shay, Joe and Ray all play an integral role in the family business. Ita, whose Agri-Science degree, along with ten years’ experience as an Agri consultant, is ideally suited to the role of Logistics Manager and is responsible for the successful transportation and export of Harty Oysters globally. Shay, who acquired vast sales and marketing experience in the South East, now focuses on the development and management of client relationships, while Ray, a qualified accountant, works on all aspects of the day to day running of the company. Youngest son Joe makes good use of his First Class honours degree in Business and French, visiting many of the Harty’s loyal clients in France and Asia whilst concurrently examining new techniques in oyster farming.
Harty Oysters is a business built on the values of family, sustainability and determination. Today, Jim can confidently take a back seat in the business, as under the helm of his family, output is expected to reach a phenomenal 20 million in-house oysters during 2017.
Harty Oysters truly is the perfect example of a proud family affair!