Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents 192 SCOOP AUTUMN 2010
cold -- from paddock to plate. "Having said that, I
don t believe you get anywhere in life -- especially
when it comes to business and marketing -- with-
out making mistakes. That s what teaches you and
keeps you going."
Mary says they also faced problems getting the
purging tanks and storage systems functioning at
"Basically, you have to purge the yabbies for 24
hours to empty the gut and clean them right out,"
she says. "To do that you need a biological filter that
will clean the dirty water and recycle it. But the first
biological reactor Michael built turned out to be a
biological disaster. The size of our system was too
small for the volume going through, so the mud from
the yabbies was continually clogging up the filter."
By chance, the Nenkes were put in contact
with a high-tech water expert at a school board
function they hosted on the farm. He suggested
they purchase a cylinder-like system full of plastic
biological rings that grow good bacteria for
filtering water. So they did.
"The bacteria utilise the waste material to
survive," Mary explains. "And create a chemical
reaction -- turning nitrites into nitrates -- so the
water doesn t kill the yabbies. Basically we pump
the dirty water from the purging tanks to the top
of this reactor, spray it down over the rings and
recycle clean water continuously."
It was this technological breakthrough -- back
in 1994 -- that transformed Cambinata Yabbies
from a small, cash-on-the-side operation into a
fully-fledged industrial plant and export business.
The next one came four years later in the form
of a holding tank with a biological filter, which
meant they could keep the yabbies cold and
spotlessly clean for longer.
"It s high maintenance but the conditions are
ideal for holding the yabbies for several weeks
prior to exporting and selling them to local
markets. This way we can deliver anywhere via
airfreight within 48 hours," Mary says.
Most of the Cambinata yabbies grow in
natural dams as far south as Esperance right up to
Mukinbudin, 300km northeast of Perth. Yabbies
tend to live midway up the slope of the dam s floor
-- where the water temperature is cooler -- and feed
on grain and crayfish pellets. Once the yabbies
have been trapped and pulled up, they re stored in
cooler crates and transported to the farm s yabby
factory where the purging process occurs, leaving
them fresh, cool and market ready.
"There s not a point in the process now where
the yabbies are exposed to heat," Michael says.
"We aim to keep them between four and eight
degrees the whole time."
In 2001, with systems and processes in smooth
operation, the Nenkes experienced their record
period to date, shipping more than 4.1 tonnes of
yabbies in a week.
Mary and Michael put much of Cambinata s
success to strong family dynamics and a loyal
network of suppliers. They have three sons who
all work full-time on the farm s wheat and yabby
operations and three daughters who help out with
the marketing. Their children s partners and grand-
children also lend a hand where needed.
"Family is the only reason we re in this,"
Mary says. "If they didn t want it, we d be doing
something else. Our three sons have all found their
niche in the business -- they don t want to leave
the farm. Our three daughters don t want to see it
sold. That s where they grew up, they have memo-
ries there, and it s wonderful they re all working
together to keep them alive."
"There s also the people we ve bought yabbies
from and the difference it has made to their lives.
One lady, for example, was able to go home to
Ireland during the drought of 1992 because of her
yabby money. Another was able to put braces on
her teeth. Kids have got through uni with the extra
cash they ve made."
Mary believes products like yabbies, which help
farmers diversify their income sources, are essential
in helping people stay on the land -- especially dur-
ing hard times.
"It s important for farmers to be able to stay where
they are, otherwise we re just fringe-dwellers on a
beautiful country with a massive hole in the middle."
As well as selling yabbies fresh to restaurants,
markets and retailers across the globe, Cambinata
has recently ventured into ready-to-eat, pickled
In 2006, they received a grant from the Federal
Government to assist the building of an export-
standard industrial kitchen for cooking and jarring
the gourmet yabby range. They also pickle abalone
for a company in Bremer Bay, with flavours
spanning lemon, spice and chilli.
"It s been an interesting journey," Michael
muses. "I was a wheat and sheep farmer most of
my life, I had to accept the prices we got for our
product. Now we set the standard, and I find
myself negotiating at the back of restaurants and
shops all over the world." sm
You can find Cambinata s yabbies at markets and
fresh food retailers across the state (Subiaco Markets
once a month). Wineries and specialty stores also stock
their gourmet range. Alternatively, you can order
Spot the di erence
Yabbies, gilgies, koonaks and marrons -- they're a
pretty similar bunch, physically speaking. And they all
roam the muddy banks of South West WA. So how
do you tell them apart? Well, first of all, the reason
they're so outwardly alike (we've yet to crack their
personalities) is because they all belong to the fresh-
YABBY NICOISE SALAD « Serves 4-6
18 yabby tails (cooked and peeled)
12 asparagus spears (peeled and blanched)
12 anchovy fillets
1 raddichio (cleaned and soaked in cold water)
6 organic tomatoes (julienne)
60ml cabernet vinegar
60ml extra virgin olive oil
40g black olive paste
6 slices of ciabatta toast
Mix together all of the ingredients, serving
the ciabatta toast and olive paste separately.
Fantastic served on a platter in the middle of
Courtesy of Chris Taylor, Fraser's Restaurant,
water crayfish family. If you look a little closer, you'll
be able to note subtle variations in colour, shape
and size. The marron, for example, is the largest
of the lot; yabbies are smaller, ranging from lighter
brown through various shades of blue to almost
black; koonacs are distinguished by a red band in
the bend of the claws; and gilgies are the smallest,
found in creeks around the metropolitan area. Inter-
estingly, yabbies (the only introduced species of the
lot) are considered a disease threat to their native
cousins, so don't release them into rivers, lakes and
dams if you're out catching. For more information
on identifying freshwater crayfish in South West WA,
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