SavingESTER Aquaculture Research Site August 16 2020
The SavingESTER Aquaculture Research Site
So, back in late June 2020, the Fal Fishery Cooperative CIC had started its first Crowdfunder supported hatchery trials and felt it was a good time to launch Phase 2 of the Crowdfunding campaign and their first extended stretch target...
Chris Ranger said “We appreciate these are strange and difficult times for many, if not all of us, but it certainly has been a struggle for us. As for many I’m sure, there were significant delays during lock down that cancelled everything and set lots back, including the legal documents for the Aquaculture Site, but in June a date was set to officially become the new tenants on 1st August and by World Oyster Day on the 5th we were installing the moorings and setting up the first surface line...”
While their Crowdfunder can no longer offer ‘rewards’ for pledges, the CIC has offered to put your name on a float for a donation equal too or more than the cost, each float is £72 and they may need many floats... so far 6 floats have been paid for by you the Crowd! Chris explains “We raised almost £1,000 of our £10,500 stretch target and reached a few milestones: our 100th supporter and more than £10,000 raised in total (including Phase 1) but that wasn’t enough to commit to the aquaculture lease”
...how did they fund it when they didn’t receive any discretionary grant nor reach their stretch target you may ask...
Chris says “I can not deny it was a massive worry, I had been working on the ‘acquisition’ of the only available Aquaculture Site on the River Fal since November 2017... it really is the back bone of everything we plan to achieve with the CIC, yet we didn’t even have the funds to pay the deposit...”
He goes on to explain “So, I was chatting to a business advisor who referred to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, but we bank with the Co-operative Bank and they were not affiliated. However, as soon as they were I applied for £10,000 based on 25% of last years turnover, after a couple of weeks they finally agreed to a 2.5% interest rate loan and after another few weeks the loan was drawn down in to the company account... I cannot tell you what a relief that was!”
After a long sigh of relief he went on to say “Suddenly, everything was coming together, but the £10,000 loan was basically allocated to pre budgeted costs with 24 hrs of receipt: we could pay the deposit to start the lease and we had recently been given two 4.6t EcoCrete stairways and four 1t blocks to use as moorings by Sean Piper at Cornish Concrete, which when turned upside down would grip the steep muddy seabed up the river, the problem then was how to get them from Bissoe to King Harry, just a few miles as the crow flies... logistically trucks large enough to unload them were too large for the King Harry road and the low bridge...”
“We therefore had two choices: from Mylor Harbour, this would require chain risers to haul off beach and suspend over the bow, an expensive short term mooring system.. but we intended to go for the longer life expectancy of 40mm sea steel (thick rope)... luckily a good friend Diccon Rogers at Keynvor Mor Lift on Falmouth Wharves had a huge landing craft with 5t crane and a store full of 40mm sea steel as well as massive shackles and thimbles... so a safe distance meeting was held and a deal was struck...”
Chris had also been approached by Toby Budd from WorkFloat about his next genius idea, ScaffFloat is a modular transportable safe working platform. So they took a look and although considered buying one they actually ended up renting a ScaffFloat for three months so they could trial many different scenarios before committing to a bespoke design....
“What else?” Said Chris “oh yes, big floats to add to the ones already provided by the donations, so 18 were ordered...”
Then the hard work really began said Zane Dutton Tompson: arranging all the logistics through a number of truly professional businesses was simple due to Chris having plenty of experience in logistical project management, then purchasing and bending 30mm steel bar thanks to a blacksmith in Longdowns, my work as a sailmaker landed me the task of splicing the huge thimbles in to eyes in at the ends of the 4 strand 40mm sea steel and there were many to do... Once the stairs were delivered to Falmouth Wharves we had to drill holes through the concrete and fit the mooring pins through before attaching the huge eyes onto the pins with huge shackles... the problem was the shackles pins were too large for the mooring pins... so we welded up som 50mm bar into sort of cuff links, then attached the risers to the floats, 6 risers in total so leaving 12 floats left for the headline (surface line)...”
Everything was set for deployment on Monday 3rd and although all licenses and approvals were in place by May, including Biosecurity Measures Plan, Habitat Regulation Assessment etc. etc., thanks to 18 months of pre planning by Chris, suddenly another set back, when they asked the Truro Harbour Office to provide coordinates for the moorings it transpired they had not been informed about any of the lease details... the Harbour Master needed to see all the paperwork, which must have been provided in great detail as he quickly approved the work could go ahead...
Chris summarised the hectic two weeks from securing the loan to actually deploying the infrastructure as “like a military operation! Wednesday 5th August, World Oyster Day, seemed a poignant day to be laying the foundations for the new Native Oyster Aquaculture Research Site, but there was a strong southwesterly wind and a small low tide weather window... luckily it really was like a military operation, literally ex mod landing craft, WorkFloat, a tug boat brilliantly named ‘Nudgette’ and me in an oyster punt with a VHF, Navionics and series of coordinates from the trial run on Saturday 1st, when we also toasted a little ships rum to the site and all ESTER’s who grow there.”
So, what’s next and are they still fundraising? “Yes” states Chris, “we had the opportunity to borrow £10,000 so we took it and got the Aquaculture Research Site set up as quickly as possible, but a) we have only the bare minimum infrastructure and much more needed as explained in the Crowdfunder SavingESTER pitch b) Phase 1 was hatchery, Phase 2 the aquaculture site, Phase 3 to get the hatchery in a vessel or on a pontoon and up at the aquaculture site, c) we aren’t generating any income yet and still a lot to purchase, so please continue to support SavingESTER and the Native Oyster repopulation campaign if you can, whether that’s financially or if you live locally then we are now seeking volunteers to help with so many aspects of the project!”