HomeNews The Tasmanian farm where drought is better news than rain

The Tasmanian farm where drought is better news than rain

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The Tasmanian farm where drought is better news than rain

Salt production in Tasmania was halved when La Niña first hit, forcing two farmers to quickly double production space because it was taking longer to dry out their product.

Key points:

  • La Niña slowed salt production in Tasmania
  • Wet conditions stalled the evaporation process
  • Salt production works best in a drought

La Niña dampened the vital evaporation process for Tasman Sea Salt, run by Chris Mason and Alice Laing, at its normally dry location on Tasmania’s spectacular east coast.

“It’s all really evaporation, we suck up the seawater and we wait to evaporate off the fresh water,” Mr Mason said.

When La Niña hit and the rain and humidity started, the evaporation rate slowed dramatically and the couple couldn’t dry off their salt.

salt in a drying machine

The modified cooling tower evaporates water, leaving sea salt.(Supplied: Sam Shelley)

“That first year of La Niña really halved our production, so we had to put in a big expansion at that time to get us back to where we needed to be,” Ms Laing said.

It was a blow to the fledgling boutique salt business, which had experienced a dream run in its first five years, a time when Tasmania’s east coast was in drought.

salt being raked

The salt produced at Tasman Sea Salt on Tasmania’s east coast.(Supplied: Sam Shelley)

“One of the reasons we situated ourselves here [was] because the east coast of Tassie is often in drought, we had a good five years when we first started off but the past three years have been tricky,” Mr Mason said.

From 2017 to 2019 the east coast of Tasmania received record low amounts of rain, farmers destocked, and dams ran dry.

Now the area is going through its third La Niña, the paddocks are green, the dams are full and livestock farmers are increasing animal numbers.

Boosting evaporation

man using spade on bin of sea salt

Chris Manson preparing sea salt for export from Tasmania’s east coast.(Supplied: Sam Shelley)

The two entrepreneurs have been forced to double their evaporation space.

“We put in a second evaporator, it should have doubled our capacity, but it just got things back to where they needed to be,” Ms Laing said.

“We’ve had to look at the process really carefully and make sure it’s really efficient, hopefully when we come out of this third La Niña we’ll be in a really strong position to boost up our markets.

“We’re only just meeting market demand at the moment.”

woman raking salt

It has been hard to process sea salt on Tasmania’s east coast during La Niña.(Supplied: Sam Shelley)

They are relying on the east coast of Tasmania drying out again to allow them to expand production and sales.

“It’s a frustrating position to be in, at the moment we are able to fill orders, but we’re ready to start going out and get new customers … we’re just having to hold our horses on that for the time being,” Ms Laing said.

Sea change still on track

pipe going into ocean

The pipeline drawing in water for the salt making process.(Supplied: Sam Shelley)

But even with the latest business challenges, they are not looking back.

The former UK lawyer and PR consultant are still happy with their sea change to Tasmania.

“It’s been a really steep learning curve. It’s been the most amazing thing we’ve ever done, but it’s been the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Mr Manson said.

“I used to look out of my office window grey concrete … now I look over Freycinet, life doesn’t get much better than that,” Ms Laing said.

Posted , updated 

Source : ABC News (AU)

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