World-beaters in sustainability.
“My father always taught me to leave the land better than you found it.”
‘Champion of Champions’ in the Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future Award, Lucy Robertshawe and Tim Aitken impressed the judges with their involvement in research and development, their approach to animal welfare, and most outstandingly, how they had enhanced the natural environment and water quality at The Steyning, their 316Ha deer farm in Central Hawkes Bay.
Lucy and Tim say they’ve made passing their land guardianship ethos to their children a priority. “We just want to do things better and we wouldn’t be satisfied any other way”.
Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation.
A philosophy they have wholeheartedly taken into their oyster farming enterprise with their son Jim and daughter Willa. Proud to help the next generation farm a renewable and sustainable protein product, Tim and Lucy are now putting their unique farming skills into aquaculture. Increasing production, increasing sustainability, reducing their carbon footprint: “There’s always a better way and we’re always asking ourselves how we can make things better”.
The Aitken family is not one for sitting around navel-gazing. They have always challenged the way agriculture and aquaculture are done.
Mahurangi Oysters is moving to Flip Farming.
The drive for better ways to do things while reducing the impact of farming on the environment is why Mahurangi Oysters is moving to Flip Farming under Jim’s leadership. This is a new, extremely innovative oyster growing system. It provides an ideal environment for oyster growth and conditioning, while efficiently controlling fouling levels, pests, predators and the footprint on the land and sea.
With the support of Tim, Lucy and Willa, Jim aspires to sustainably grow the most incredible delicacies for you all to enjoy.
FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS.
Meet Jim, Willa, Lucy and Tim – the family behind Mahurangi Oysters.
This is Jim.
It was pretty evident from about the age of about three that Jim was going to become a “fish farmer”. It is a passion that flows through every bit of his 6’3” frame. His absolute focus has always been on finding a way to save the world’s fish stocks. As a wee guy, he was always drawing up plans for fish farms and would never allow the family to buy tinned tuna or commercially caught fish in the supermarket. Dyslexia meant mainstream education was not an easy path for Jim, but thanks to his determination and passion, he has made his dream happen. Graduating from Otago University with a bachelor’s degree in ecology, minoring in marine biology, he went on to be a “fish farmer” as he said he always would. However, the business made him aware of the unsustainable processes where three fish are required to grow just one for market.
An opportunity to enter as a family into oyster farming, the most sustainable and environmentally friendly form of aquaculture, was too good to pass up. Jim now runs the day-to-day oyster farm operations and development at Mahurangi Oysters. Determined to develop the most sustainable form of aquaculture in oyster farming, he works hard at continually improving every aspect of the operation.
Willa and Jim
Jim and a whopper!
Jim, at one with the ocean
Jim, always well equipped
This is Willa.
Currently earning her degree in law and commerce at Victoria University of Wellington, Willa helps out at the various fairs, shows and festivals where Mahurangi Oysters sell their wares. Looking particularly flash in her personalised “Shuck, that’s good” tee shirt, and standing behind the specialised oyster shucking table made from a $20 bathtub and filled with ice, Willa is pretty good on the end of that shucking knife. It’s a real showstopper; people are always videoing and taking photos as they wait for their freshly shucked treat. At the last outing, the Aitken clan and helpers were serving plates of 6 oysters with lemon and vinaigrette shucked in front of about 18,000 people.
Like her mother, Willa has had a passion for dressage riding. She’s been serious about it since she was four. An internationally trained rider, when she’s not competing, she teaches, schools and agists a range of horses and ponies.
This is Lucy.
Lucy is based in the Hawkes Bay on their smaller farm, having sold The Steyning a few years ago. She has a passion for helping young horse and pony riders and runs their breeding programme using imported and local genetics to breed dressage horses they train and compete on.
Lucy supports the oyster business on social media and at events. She says one of the bonuses of having an oyster farm is being able to experiment with them. She freely admits some of her oyster trials are sensational while others need more work.
One of her more successful experiments involves lining up a range of botanic gins and spooning teaspoonfuls into freshly shucked oysters. Lucy recommends ‘Silent Pool’ as her spirit of choice.
This is Tim.
Apparently, he’s very good at holding horses at events and assisting at foalings. Tim has a few more strings to his bow than just that though.
A Central Hawkes Bay councillor, he is also Chairman of Horse of Year Show, the largest equestrian event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Whilst farming The Steyning, Lucy and Tim were finalists in the Ballance Environmental Awards East Coast, Winners of the Land Stewardship Award, recipients of the Waitrose Farming Partnership Awards, winners of the Marks and Spencer Farming for the Future Awards – Champion of Champions, The Silver Fern Farms, Hawkes Bay Farmer of the Year and winners of the New Zealand Deer Farmers Environmental and Sustainable Award with Distinction.
When the weather is good Tim likes to go fishing with Jim. Tim enjoys supporting Lucy and Willa with their horses and has taken up flying again after a 15-year hiatus.