Renowned Connemara shellfish business “musseling” in for growth following investment supported by BIM

Simon Kennedy and Kate O’Connor Kennedy, owners of Killary Fjord Shellfish

A renowned Connemara shellfish business is poised for growth and increased efficiencies following an investment in a new packaging and labelling machine supported by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

Killary Fjord Shellfish in Leenane received grant aid of over €16,000 under the Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme, recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. and implemented by BIM. The scheme is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

According to the owners of Killary Fjord Shellfish, Simon Kennedy and his wife Kate O’Connor Kennedy, the new packaging and labelling machine is allowing them produce more shellfish more efficiently, with the packaging material having minimal negative environmental impact.

According to Kate the business, which has been operating for 35 years, has always had a huge emphasis on sustainability, using recyclable and reusable materials to avoid single use plastics as much as possible.

“In so far as we can we source materials that are local and sustainable, reducing our carbon footprint. For example, we use wooden boxes for our oysters packaging. And we use recyclable hairy rope in our growing techniques that are stripped down and reused annually.”

Said Simon: “We have always worked with suppliers who are committed to the environment and the ethos of the circular economy, which is the sustainable and efficient use of materials and processing to protect the environment.”

Killary Fjord Shellfish also sources hard plastic food grade crates locally which are then collected and reused for next delivery, significantly increasing life cycle of the packaging.

This is something the couple are very proud of. “Our environmentally responsible attitude turns discarded packaging from single use to multiuse. By encouraging and promoting our commitment to circular economy, waste is avoided and life cycle and cost of packaging is reduced and our carbon footprint is minimised. There is a shift away from the disposable attitude in industry and we are happy to play our part in this proactive environmental shift. “ said Kate.

Kate and Simon at their new packaging and labelling machine supported by BIM

The story started more than three decades ago when Simon was reading a copy of the Marine Times while lying on his bunk during down time from his job as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. Simon had been working for four years in America’s largest and least populated state when an exciting and unexpected career opportunity came up.

“I had been thinking of coming back to Ireland and I saw a ‘For Sale’ ad for a mussel farm in Killary Fjord while I was reading the paper. And the rest is history,” said Simon, who is passionate about fishing, aquaculture and the environment.

That was in 1988 and over the last 30 plus years Simon and Kate have developed Killary Fjord Shellfish into one of the foremost shellfish farms and suppliers in Ireland today.

Kerry-born Kate came to Connemara to work at Kylemore Abbey for the summer in 1989. She fell in love with the area, met Simon and stayed. Like her husband she has a great affinity with nature and the Connemara landscape

Killary Harbour is a stunning 16km fjord which forms a natural border between Galway and Mayo with the Mweelrea, Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountains as a dramatic scenic backdrop. Harvested from pristine waters, the shellfish that are farmed by Simon and Kate are of the highest quality, protecting the delicate marine ecosystem at the same time.

Their products are sought after by seafood lovers and chefs alike for their quality and taste – and the couple supply shellfish to local restaurants along the stunning Wild Atlantic Way, as well as to three major fish distributors in Ireland.  The business is also part of Taste the Atlantic – a seafood journey that is a collaborative initiative between Bord Iaschaigh Mhara (BIM) and Fáilte Ireland to promote the fantastic seafood producers and their products along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The business specialises in oysters, mussels and clams prized for their freshness and flavour and has recently marked an increase in productivity and sustainability thanks to investment in a new automated packaging and labelling system, with support from BIM.

As well as farming shellfish Killary Fjord Shellfish offers an unforgettable “Day in the life” tour, bringing visitors out on a boat to see mussels hauled aboard, harvested, graded, and cleaned. Once back on dry land, there is a lesson in oyster shucking, and you get to enjoy a delicious shellfish lunch.