Demand for fresh fish is strong both in New Zealand and across the Tasman, says general manager wet fish at Talley’s Leon Moore.
“New Zealanders just love our fresh fish, they can’t get enough of it,” he says. “Australia is our second biggest fresh fish market. We noticed a drop in demand during Covid-19 this year but we are now back to where we were pre the Covid-19 lockdowns.”
Leon, whose mandate covers all inshore distribution and processing of commercial fish species caught from around the country, says that the lockdown period was challenging for the business with both fishing and processing capacity reduced by 50%. Talley’s focused on supporting staff, without taking a government subsidy, and managed to keep up with the demand for fresh fish during this difficult time.
“As an essential service through Covid-19 each of the factories continued to operate and employ its people, helping buffer many from the impact of New Zealand’s lockdown,” he says.
Talley’s operates three inshore fish processing factories in Motueka, Timaru and Westport. Products are processed into many forms including skinless boneless fillets.
All the factories have undergone upgrades over the last few years, as demand has increased and technology has advanced, including an innovative bespoke automotive fish processing line.
“Everyone who works on the filleting line was involved in the automation development – after all they were the ones who would use it. We had workshops with the staff, bringing them in at different points through the project to ensure we had good insight from everyone. So now, working with Nelson’s Ansco Engineering and Invercargill’s Concept Solutions, we have purpose built our own flow lines and conveying system for grading at our fish factories. It has made a significant difference to the productivity and the health and safety of our people,” he says.
He says the company has also progressively made improvements that have had positive environmental outcomes, such as replacing polybins to cardboard and removing the plastic strapping from boxes.
“We are doing what we can to reduce plastic whenever we can. Of course reducing plastic is not only good for the environment but has had some efficiency benefits too. For example by removing the need for the strapping machinery we have saved money running the machines and have also been able to redeploy the operators into different roles in production. This is better for them and the business.”
He says demand for fresh fish remains strong.
“Even with Covid-19 impacting on our international markets, people are still wanting our fish, which is fantastic.”