A visit to Nieddittas: effort and pride of a sustainable company

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Just below the noise of the machines the mussel shells beat and rub between them, as in a perennial undertow. The workers, protected during the long hours of noise from earplugs that look like stethoscopes, are bent over their segment of production. The first pour the mussels into the brushing machine. Others, with quick hands on the conveyor, identify and drop the non-conforming pieces in a basket. The belt climbs up to a funnel that houses the mussels and divides them into small masses, which are then closed in small nets of different color depending on the weight. Tomorrow biodegradable nets will be used for the first time, after a long and difficult year of research and investments. The bags then compose the pallets, massive cubes interspersed with lumps of ice and wrapped around with vigorous with many cellophane swirls.

If school classes are not considered, it is the first time that Nieddittas opens the doors of its production to visitors, who have flocked to fill in all the scheduled shifts for the Coast Day, the two-day event organized by the MEDSEA Foundation. The guests, covered by white overalls and shoes, listen to Carla Cubadda, in charge for food security and guide along the visit, while everything moves and flows around.

The product comes from the farm, sixty hectares overlooking the Marine Protected Area of Sinis-Isola di Mal di Ventre and the archeological site of Tharros, or, in the case of clams and oysters, from national and international suppliers. Temperature-controlled vehicles transport the mussels to the factory, where some specialists proceed to check the quality of the product: vitality, organoleptic characteristics, color and quantity of pulp. Mussels and clams are transferred then to the "bins", large baskets stacked under the purification showers. The water, coming from the sea merger, is taken to a storage tank and pushed to the purification circle. A closed circuit, with very little waste and no use of chemicals.

The empty shells are disposed of according to regulations, while the animals still vital but with damaged shells are destined to the baskets that will be used for the aquaculture plant, a cone of water obtained from the appendix of the Corru Mannu pond located, a few steps from the factory. Here, visitors enjoy throwing handfuls of mussels to the sea bream, shadows in the water that wolf down the meal as soon as it reaches the water. One ton of mussels per day capable of constantly guaranteeing the meat quality. A net prevents the cormorants from reaching the breeding, divided into two large rooms that house juveniles and older, full-bodied specimens. The total number is checked to avoid stress to the fish. The "bream cycle" was proposed by the biologist of the company Carlo Cottiglia, who explains: "The effort to make the process sustainable continues with the shells, which we shred and use periodically to restructure the bottom of the pond ì where it could present conditions of anoxia dangerous for the breeding”. Nieddittas and MEDSEA, within the activities of Maristanis project, have been discussing the possibility of starting a project that would like to exploit the shells, a difficult item to dispose of, to produce building materials. The feeling, made up of the work of men, the words of technicians and the space around, fenced to avoid poaching and accumulation in alien waste dumps, is that of a company that wants to blend in with the paradise that hosts it, conscious that the quality of the product, and therefore the income, are one thing with the care of the environment. Once a week the workers of patrol the beaches that overlook the breeding to collect the waste brought by the current.

The visit continues on a minibus along the strip of land that runs between the sea and the pond. The scenario that runs along us is wonderous: white and gray herons contemplate the theater of rushes and salicornia, or take off for a low flight. And the peregrine falcons standing on poles, the herds of small fish that flicker to the surface, amid the morning reverberations. Or the fish pond that fishermen will soon shut to prevent the mullets heading for the sea, when fall comes. Mr. Aramu, on the other hand, has just returned from the sea. He has stuck his bow just enough to stop on the bank. He goes down, takes the chain of traps neatly on the shore with which he has fished several kilos of octopus, grays and moving in the proudly displayed basket. He comes from Marceddì, where the consortium sometimes sells the fish to Nieddittas. "It would be nice to improve the relationship that already exists with such a serious company, but often changing traditions is difficult in cooperatives”.

"It is certainly an interesting perspective. In Italy and abroad the Sardinian product is always seen as characterized by high quality. Increasing the percentage in the production could only be a positive element”, says Cubadda, now sitting in the office located above the packaging plant. Nieddittas protects the mussels’ breeding at sea with planned reclamations. Periodically a team of specialized divers works for hours to clean the seabed from nets and plastics brought by storm surges or abandoned by some unwary navigator. "The environment in which we work must be protected, not exploited. Nature responds to exploitation by extinguishing the products it is otherwise capable of giving. Our mussels live in the sea, they purify themselves with the water of the compendium. For us it is essential that the sea is unpolluted. Their flavor is unique, because unique is the environment where they grow”.