Goolwa Pipi Co. was formed in 2014 by a small, dedicated group of multi generational fishing families who recognise the benefits of working together in a collaborative way. Co-founder Tom Robinson states, “It is quite unique in the fishing industry for fishermen to work together but by doing so we have been able to afford improvements in our processes and product quality and thereby increase our competitive advantage in the market.” Goolwa Pipi Co brings together more than 100 years of combined experience and the collection of fishermen and women working together at Goolwa Pipi Co. are proud of their unique story and their especially delicious product.
These sweet and nutty sand-dwellers have an unmatched firm and satisfying texture. Tom explains, “A mud cockle sits in the mud and has a relatively lazy life. A surf clam is hanging on for its existence – imagine trying to stand up at a surf beach all day! Because of this, the muscle is well developed, and is quite firm compared to other clams.”
Pipis have long been a delicacy in Asia (where they call them “butterfly clams” because of their shell shape). They are now appearing on some of Australia’s best restaurant menus and even on family dinner tables. Tom says they are great “steamed, added to soups and paellas, or simply thrown on the barbecue with garlic and oil.” Their small size and 35% meat ratio also make them a substantial addition to dishes.
To gather these pipis, a small group of diggers manually harvest them on rough surf beaches all year long (even in the chilling winter months!) in a remote part of Coorong National Park, South Australia. After the pipis are scooped up, they are quickly transferred to giant tanks of seawater at the company’s state of the art processing facilities.
The pipis are kept here for at least 24 hours, so they can spit out all of their sand and become clean and ready to eat. Tom and his team then pack them in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) for an extended shelf life of 10 days, or blast-freeze them immediately to ensure top quality. These packing methods allow a typically inaccessible product to be found in supermarkets and retailers.
What really sets Goolwa Pipi Co. apart from other pipi producers, is the fact that a group of typically-competitive fisheries are choosing to work together to improve conditions for all parties, particularly the sustainability of the industry.
The producers that come together under the name Goolwa Pipi Co. make up 58% of the pipi industry in South Australia, and as business partners, they are committed to running a sustainable operation. Each year Goolwa Pipi Co. and its team of diggers harvest about 300 tonnes of pipis. They work with the government to maintain environmental and economic harvesting limits and have aligned with the Marine Stewardship Council who monitor all fishing activities to ensure that the fishery is sustainably managed.
Collaboration is the key component for Tom and his colleagues, and is something that sets their operation and product well above others. “We are excited about the future and our growing market for pipis. We speak to companies, restaurants, and chefs with one voice, and with this kind of teamwork we can achieve great things”.