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Abagold abalone

The SA aquaculture success story that is Abagold

While poachers risk life and liberty extracting abalone off the shores of Hermanus, the pricey delicacy is being produced in tons not far away by Abagold, an SA aquaculture success story. Two decades ago this company helped pioneer what has become the world’s largest cultured abalone industry. It is so successful that a private equity firm, Inspired Evolution, has just pumped R52,5m into it.

“We invest in sustainable agricultural projects,” says Inspired Evolution CEO Michael Brooks. “Abagold is on top of the game.”

Inspired Evolution investors include the Global Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Fund, Norwegian Swiss and Finnish development funds and SA’s Industrial Development Corp (IDC).

Abagold MD Christo du Plessis says the money will be used to lift Abagold’s annual production by 200 t to 470 t and will lead to a doubling of its staff to 570 people.

Raising output, he says, is not an overnight affair; abalone takes over four years to mature. When it does, nearly all Abagold’s production heads for markets in Southeast Asia, where SA’s unique abalone species is highly sought after. SA exports about 1000 t of farmed abalone each year, about 96% of total production.

Regrettably, abalone is SA’s only really big aquaculture success story compared to global aquaculture production.

SA represents a minuscule portion of world aquaculture output, says Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa chairman Etienne Hinrichsen. Aquaculture output from SA is worth about R250m/year, with abalone accounting for over 50%, he says. It is indicative of the slow pace of growth that the aquaculture industry’s revenue, primarily from abalone, trout, oysters and mussels, was R225m in 1998, according to the department of agriculture & forestry.

But things are changing…..

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