Abalone company expands - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Abalone company expands

Al Salomon Al Salomon

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

KONA (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the largest privately owned abalone companies in the world, is now flourishing in its 11th year.

It survived a shaky economy and tough competition, but plans to expand the Kona farm are already in place.

The Big Island Abalone Corporation sits on 10 acres of land at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii at Keahole Point. But they're only using about a third of that land.

Plans to use the entire space will more than double their production, shipping 120 tons a year to high-end restaurants here and around the world.

It's no secret that abalone is a highly desirable food to most and it's also no secret why the one of the world's largest privately owned abalone farms resides in Kona.

It has perfect conditions for nourishing the naturally grown sea snails.

Combine some of the most abundant sunlight in the nation with nutrient-rich water, 3,000-feet below sea level to grow Ezo or Kona Coast Abalone.

But the waters weren't so smooth at the start.

"We were struggling in the beginning because of the economy and china and hong kong was flooding the market with wild stuff, but since trident seafoods came on-board, they're doing a lot more sales in japan, they're helping out our sales big time," Facility manager Al Salomon said.

They ship more than 50 tons of live, fresh abalone yearly to places like Tokyo, Waikiki, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

"We did have to lower the price to compete with China and Hong Kong, but we're now selling 170 cases a week, not making money still, but holding us steady," Salomon said.

The abalone is kept at the farm for six months, then graded and sent out to the production area.

Two million abalone live at the farm in 300 cages and 30 tanks. It stays there for two and a half years and then it's off to the market.

In a few months, more abalone will be sent off, as the farm plans to expand.

"They're gonna add something like 388 tanks onto this farm, we have 10 acres here, there's only about 1/3 that's being used, so we're gonna occupy all space with tanks," Salomon said.

Big Island Abalone is already being sold at Kapiolani Community College and Blaisdell Farmer's Markerts.

Just about a week ago, they started selling it at Costco locations on Oahu.

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