HIK Abalone Farm’s hatchery is divided into four highly specialised departments, namely, broodstock, larvae, settlement and weaning. The hatchery period from egg to ten millimetre spat takes six months. The hatchery currently produces between 2.5 and 3 million spat annually.
- Broodstock: Only those abalone exhibiting superior performance characteristics are selected as brood animals. Males and females are housed in a tightly regulated environment where they are fed their natural diet of kelp. This allows for an intensive but safe spawning program. The entire fertilization process is controlled, allowing for the selection of fertilized eggs of the highest quality.
- Larvae: Within hours of fertilisation, a free-swimming trochophore larva will emerge from the egg membrane. These yolk-nourished larvae are housed in tanks supplied with highly filtered seawater and are monitored on a daily basis. Over the next few days, the larvae will develop into competent veliger larvae until such time that their yolk reserves can no longer sustain them. The best quality larvae are then selected for the next phase in production.
- Settlement: Veliger larvae are transferred to settlement, where they are presented with a bouquet of micro-algae grown on polycarbonate plates. If the micro-algae species composition is satisfactory, these larvae will attach to the plates, lose the ability to swim, and metamorphose into perfect baby abalone called spat. The micro-algae will serve as a food source for the next three to four months, until such time that they have depleted the biofilm. In order to sustain optimal health and growth, spat are anaesthetised, size sorted and transferred into the next rearing system.
- Weaning: As spat mature, their nutritional requirements change. Therefore, they are weaned off a natural diet of micro-algae onto a formulated diet called Abfeed. The young spat are nurtured by dedicated workers and quickly adapt to their new environment and diet. Under these optimal conditions, spat rapidly grow to a length of approximately ten millimeters. At this point, spat are robust enough to handle the grow-out environment.
At HIK, abalone are grown to market size over a period of 36 – 45 months. Abalone are carefully tended in oyster net baskets suspended in tanks, and fed an artificial diet (Abfeed) which is especially formulated for the species. Tanks are cleaned weekly, and a large amount of energy is focussed on animal health and husbandry. HIK’s grow-out area currently supports over 5 million individual animals with a collective biomass of approximately 160 tonnes.
Optimal use of information across all aspects of the abalone farm is a core priority at HIK. Maintenance and analysis of accurate stock data is of utmost importance when developing and implementing weekly, monthly and annual production plans. HIK recognised this need many years ago, and the continual development & optimisation of our two custom-developed software programs (abalone stock management and abalone stock forecasting) is our highest priority apart from farming abalone. These programs allow for the collection and analysis of very large datasets (biological, technical, environmental), as well as the assimilation of output data into various stock growing and harvesting scenarios. This program has made a profound impact on how abalone are farmed at HIK, and gives us a significant edge on local and international competitors. Outputs from these programs are integrated with other information sources to calculate various farm productivity and efficiency indicators.
HIK’s current production output ranges between 140-150 tonnes per annum. We have shifted our stock management strategy in order to increase this output to 160 – 170 tonnes by the end of 2014. We believe that the synergy and team-spirit that permeate our organisation will contribute significantly toward achieving this goal.