New Yumbah Aquaculture group finance manager Patrick O’Neil’s penchant for abalone diving

First published on The Adelaide Advertiser 28 November 2018. Click here to read the full article.

Patrick O’Neil’s connection with abalone stretches back to when he was about 12, spending his school holidays diving on the Eyre Peninsula.

Mr O’Neil, who has joined the ranks at abalone producer Yumbah Aquaculture, says he still enjoys searching for the shellfish any chance he can get, long after those family trips to Elliston.

“Being a youngster who loved diving and water sports, I was diving for abalone as soon as I learned how,” he said.

Mr O’Neil recently took up a role as Yumbah’s group finance manager, following nine years with winemaker Yalumba, in the Barossa Valley.

“It’s a passion I’ve had for a very long time – abalone and seafood – and what better place to be doing it than in SA,” he said. “For me, this is about taking the business from where it is at the moment, with four farms producing 800 tonnes of abalone, to a fifth farm, at Portland, which is going through approvals at the moment.”

By the time the new $60 million farm in Victoria is operating, the business will be processing about 2000 tonnes of abalone each year.

“There’s some really strong growth plans for the business and that’s the area I’ll be focusing on over the next few years,” Mr O’Neil said.

He is based at Yumbah’s Wingfield processing centre.

The company – the largest abalone producer in the southern hemisphere – also has farms in Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island, Narrawong in Victoria, and Bicheno, in Tasmania.

While working in the wine sector, Mr O’Neil spent 15 months on secondment in Napa Valley, California, as commercial manager of premium wine importer Negociants USA.

“That was an unbelievable experience and a really great opportunity,” he said.