Farmed salmon could be contaminated with synthetic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) if their feed is sourced from regions with little or no environmental regulations, suggests a new study, but is it a reason to avoid farmed salmon altogether? A University of Pittsburgh study led by Dr Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, tracked the presence of PBDEs in farmed salmon. Despite having been banned in the United States and much of Europe in 2004 because of environmental and public health concerns, PBDEs continue to be released into the environment from products manufactured before the ban of PBDEs, the study says. “They enter the air and water and can accumulate in prey fish which are then used in the manufacture of feed ingredients,” Ng explains to Aquaculture North America (ANA). If the exact location of the catch used as feed ingredients is unknown and/or the materials have not been tested for the presence of the pollutants, it can be difficult to tell ahead of time which animal-derived feed ingredients contain PBDEs, Ng acknowledges. But the study noted that PBDEs are particularly dense in areas such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam, countries that process a lot of electronic waste and lack rigorous regulation of their recycling industries. Dr Neil Auchterlonie, Technical Director at IFFO, the marine ingredients organization, recognized the presence of these chemicals in “extremely small (amounts) and in generally declining concentrations.” In deciding whether this means we should stop eating farmed salmon, Auchterlonie tells ANA: “One of the facets of the continual development of analytical technology is the identification of some of these compounds in ever-smaller concentrations. Those results are often so small that they are confusing when it comes to the interpretation of risk. That risk is important to bear in mind when taken into account with the noted benefits of consuming seafood.” He adds that it is also important to recognize that these materials are found throughout the environment, not just in seafood. In fact, synthetic flame-retardants are everywhere. “As well as being present in the aquatic environment, PBDEs are present in the atmosphere, and in dust, which can also be sources of exposure,” he says. Still, the risk to human health appears to be minute. A report from the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, which covered an extensive overview of contaminants including PBDEs, concluded that the risk of adverse health effects due to PBDEs is low. Animal nutrition specialists and fish feed manufacturers contacted for comment did not respond by our deadline.
A research project that explores the use of kelp perch and pile perch as means to control sea lice infestations in farmed Atlantic salmon in British Columbia has received additional funding from Sea Pact.
YouTube videos come in handy for professional development or for anyone simply interested about learning more about fish farming.You want this person to listen to you. But you know that if he would, he might only give you very short time and, even then, there are other people lining up to talk to him as well. This could very well be the same case whenever you upload an extension video on sharing sites such as YouTube.So how do you seize the moment?“Make sure that you have a quality opening and get into the meat of the material quickly,” Dr David Cline, an extension aquaculturist at Auburn University in Alabama, told Aquaculture North America (ANA).Cline is behind Aquaculture Education and More channel on YouTube, which he started in 2013. His most popular video is on in-pond raceways, which has been viewed 120,000 times. Educational videos on YouTube have an average of 4,872 views.“A good opening sequence is okay as long as it is visually compelling and high quality,” he continued.  “Use good visuals early.” Interesting photos, an interview, good graphics always help. Thirty seconds is all it takes for viewers to decide if a video suits their needs. And even less if there are other videos available online on the topic. “I have seen topics that in some videos are covered in one minute and the same topic in another takes five minutes or more.  Which would you rather watch?,” he asked.Pace is another important element. “Don’t stay on the same picture or  scene for more than 10 to 15 seconds,” he said.  “Try to think like a director. The next time you watch a TV show start counting each time the shot changes. You will be surprised how few times you get to 10.”On top of the education component, the video must also be entertaining.  Otherwise, viewers would most likely move on to something else.  “A video is sort of an exchange. I give you my time to watch the video and I want something in return,” he said. “If the content is not what I want or is boring I feel like the video has stolen my time from me.” Selecting topics depend on your passion, a topic you are currently working on, or a story that you want to tell. It could also be about a question you have been asked several times before or just simply taking advantage of an opportunity. Examples, he says, are the harvest of a big pond, or a feeding frenzy.  “It something that is interesting but is not necessarily a full-blown idea or story.”
Efforts to combat sea lice infestations through natural means have advanced with the first spawning of farmed ballan wrasse in captivity. Wild ballan wrasse has been used in salmon farms in Scotland for years as a non-chemical way of controlling sea lice infestations, but reliance on wild catch is unsustainable. The milestone in the culture of the so-called “cleaner fish” has been reached at a hatchery in Machrihanish, Scotland, which is a joint venture between Marine Harvest and Scottish Sea Farms. Although the wrasse produced at the hatchery will go to the companies’ salmon farms, the industry will benefit from the research. “The research we have done here is for everybody. We have close links with Norway and other hatcheries in Scotland and the information can be disseminated all around the industry. It is a joint industry project and we welcome the opportunity, if need be, to supply larvae to hatcheries,” says hatchery manager Paul Featherstone. There are plans to expand the existing facility over the next few years, and the expansion could enable the hatchery to produce 1.5 to 2 million wrasse annually, says Featherstone. “This is a total win-win situation,” says John Rea, director of Scottish Sea Farms, in a film about the role of wrasse in salmon aquaculture. “Our fish are better off by having this partner in their nets alongside them. It means we have a much lower environmental footprint than we’d otherwise have; the medicine bill is reduced. It makes salmon more suitable.”
Researcher suggests noise pollution could affect reproductive behavior and stress levels of fish
Massachusetts-based biotech company KnipBio has been awarded a grant to study how changes in diet can alleviate enteritis and other diseases in aquaculture.The company is known for its fishmeal ingredient called KnipBio Meal (KBM), which is derived from microbes instead of wild-caught fish or agricultural crops.Enteritis is a common diet-related disease in farm-raised carnivorous fish that can lead to slower growth and increased mortality. It is estimated this disease costs the aquaculture industry more than $1 billion per year. Preliminary feed trials have consistently found that fish and shrimp fed KnipBio Meal experience improved gut health, lower rates of enteritis, and reduced mortality levels compared to populations raised on standard industry diets. The goal of the grant is to study the mechanism by which KBM acts as a prebiotic to affect gut health of rainbow trout and identify the specific components in KnipBio Meal responsible for this effect. It will be conducted over the course of one year and, if successful, may lead to additional funding to commercialize the findings.The grant was from Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Science Foundation.
Do wild salmon interact with farmed salmon? If so, how often?  These are just some of the questions that a new project hopes to answer to determine why wild salmon populations are declining.The $500,000 study launched by New Brunswick’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is in cooperation with the aquaculture industry. It involves establishing 24 receiver sites on Passamaquoddy Bay and the river system. Sixty young salmon were tagged in the river system and then released. Those tags trip a sensor in the receivers when the fish swim within range. That information will inform scientists whether wild salmon are in fact interacting with farmed salmon in open-net pens and how often.“There are concerns about the potential transfer of disease from wild salmon to aquaculture, but also the potential for transfer of disease from aquaculture to wild salmon,” DFO researcher Marc Trudel told Global News.With this being a pilot project, it’s not known how long it will take to gather the needed information, or how that data may shape future policies, Trudel added.
First wine, now whisky.A startup that’s developing aquaculture feed made with byproducts from the whisky distilling process has attracted roughly $671,600 (£500,000) in investment.The company, MiAlgae, uses by-products from the distilling process to grow Omega 3-rich algae for feeding farmed salmon. Douglas Martin founded the company while a masters student at the University of Edinburgh in 2015-16. He said he wanted to revolutionize the animal and fish feed industries with microalgae that come from whisky.The investment, in equal shares from Equity Gap, the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies, and the University’s venture fund Old College Capital, will enable the company to expand its team and build a pilot plant for its technology at a whisky distillery."This investment will fund the initial scale-up steps and de-risk our commercial facility. It certainly sets us on track to achieve our ambitions," Martin said.Earlier, in Australia, an aquaculture feed made with grape marc – skins, pulp, seeds, and stems left over after wine is made – has shown promising results in lab trials.
Both produce similar levels of off-flavor in catfish, study shows
Marine Harvest has applied for development licenses to test semi-closed technology concepts as it continues to seek new and innovative solutions for the aquaculture industry.
A new study on the effects of Piscine Reovirus (PRV) on wild salmon has met with criticism from experts.
Findings of three-year on-farm demonstration study entice Eastern seaboard oyster farms to begin adapting flip-bag technology Oyster aquaculture in the United States has rapidly expanded in the past 20 years, and oyster cup shape, as well as taste, is critical to the consumer. Deeper cups are preferred because they suggest a higher volume of meat. Cup shape can be manipulated through handling practices – the more an oyster is handled, the more new linear shell growth gets broken off, leading to the formation of a deeper cup. Some oyster farmers use a method of breaking off new growth by placing oysters in a “tumbling” device once in a while. A more convenient alternative is the relatively new “flip-bag” system, a conventional plastic mesh bag designed to rotate with the rise and fall of the tide, tumbling the oysters automatically. While the flip bag method has been a big success on the West Coast, it has yet to make a big impact with growers on the East Coast. A small research project at Rogers Williams University in Rhode Island a few years ago showed that flip bags resulted in oysters of excellent quality, so the technology was further studied in a research project from 2014 to 2017 as part of a bigger plan to develop a Northeast Aquaculture Research Farm Network (NARF-Net) through on-farm demonstration projects. The use of NARF-Net “provided an excellent opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of using tide-tumbled flip bags to produce superior grade oysters on New England farms,” states the final study report, released in July 2017. The study evaluated three styles of flip bags (Seapa, BST and ADPI bags) in terms of the grade and meat quality of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) compared to traditional rack and bag and floating culture systems. The research team found that the flip bag system produces an oyster with higher meat content than a conventionally farmed oyster. “The application of flip bag culture yields a slower-growing but higher grade oyster, compared to traditional culture methods, with a large volume of edible tissue, which may lend itself to a higher market value,” states the final report. It cautions, however, that “careful consideration of site selection and space utilization is critical in successful application of the flip bag system.” As of July 2017, the researchers were aware of two East Coast oyster farms (that had participated in the study) using the flip-bag system “with numerous more farms considering it.” The study also included evaluation of artificial media to grow quahogs. The research team found preliminary evaluations “promising from a technical standpoint, where clam growth and survival was equivalent between quahogs held in oyster bags versus those reared infaunally in native substrate. However, the team said the lack of a suitable artificial substrate in terms of handling weight “precludes the use of this technology in its current form on commercial farms.”
When Aquaculture North America (ANA) first asked me why my family got involved in farming seafood on land using recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and what potential benefits we saw, I had to take a step back because not only are there multiple levels to the answer, the answer has also been evolving over time as we continue learning about RAS.
Seventy-two percent of the 30 fish processing facilities audited in British Columbia are not compliant with permit conditions and the province says there is a need to strengthen requirements for fish processors in order to protect the marine environment. The sector-wide audit was conducted after the online publication in November of a video by diver Tavish Campbell that shows fish blood and waste being pumped out of a salmon processing plant in Brown’s Bay near Campbell River. Results of the audit, released on Wednesday, shows the majority of non-compliances with permit conditions were administrative, such as failing to post signage, but there were a few fish processors that exceeded volumes and the quality of fish processing effluent discharged, than is allowed under their permits. “This audit clearly tells us more work needs to be done to ensure our coastal waterways are safe for all wild fish stocks,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “The industry has been largely operating under an outdated permitting regime, going back several decades. We are taking immediate steps to ensure permits are updated and strengthened at fish processing facilities throughout BC.” The ministry recommends modernizing existing permits to include additional environmental protection provisions, such as more rigorous discharge requirements and increased monitoring, and requiring fish processing facilities to update their update their standard operational procedures to reduce the volume of effluent discharged into the environment.
Salmon and trout producer Cermaq has released its quarterly sustainability results on key indicators related to fish health for the first quarter of 2018. The company said the key takeaway on sustainability performance from the quarter includes survival rates spanning from 92.5 - 97.3 percent on a 12 month rolling basis, with the highest level achieved for trout in Chile. In fish health performance, use of antibiotics in Q1 was reduced by 70 percent in Chile compared to the same quarter last year. In Canada, the use was “further reduced” to 9 grams of antibiotics per tonne of salmon harvested within the quarter. The fish harvested by Cermaq Norway in the quarter did not receive any antibiotics, it added. Average sea lice levels at Cermaq sites worldwide were within regulatory limits, “with the exception of a few sites in Canada where the levels exceeded the regulatory limit and have continued doing so,” said the company. It added that the situation “is being addressed by all available means, including early harvesting and by treatment with hydrogen peroxide.” Cermaq also reported one incident of escapes in Chile, where 6,284 fish, weighing 2.9 kg each on average, escaped its operations due to ripped nets. The company started publishing quarterly sustainability results in early 2016.
The Norwegian Government rejected a giant fish farm concept to be housed in what could have been the world’s largest ship because the idea was not innovative enough.
Viewed by locals as “dirty trash fish,” a non-profit helps tilapia win the hearts and minds of HawaiiansThere has been no stopping the success and progress of Kohala Mountain Fish Company (KMFC) in Kapaau, Hawaii since operation began in late 2014. The operation is situated on, and jointly owned by, the Kohala Institute. The not-for-profit institute promotes connection to traditional Hawaiian lands and their sustainable use, with the goal of creating a better world. Before KMFC got going, tilapia farming in the state was extremely limited, notes KMFC General Manager/Head Biologist John Oliva. “Tilapia in Hawaii did not have a very good reputation,” he explains. “It was viewed as a dirty trash fish… It has taken some work by KMFC and others like Denise Yamaguchi from the Hawaii Food and Wine festival to win hearts and minds here. Our products have received much praise in the marketplace for their presentation, flavor and fat content, allowing us to get a higher market price from the target customer base.” Currently, Kohala supplies whole fresh fish to distributors in Oahu and to restaurants as far away as New York. Eco-friendly In harmony with the values of the Kohala Institute, the operation is designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Tilapia was chosen as best for integrating with all the sustainable aspects of the Kohala operations, in addition to being the most easily acquired and easy-to-rear fish, with a fast growth rate and great market versatility. Water for the fish is sourced from a spring inside nearby Kohala Mountain and after flowing through the fish farm, it’s filtered through water cress tanks and settling ponds before moving into various gardens and macadamia nut orchards. Fish farm sludge is composted with processing waste and Institute green waste to fertilize cattle pastures. KMFC uses a batch harvesting method and a stocking density of 60 kg/m3, with egg-to-harvest timelines of six to nine months. The hatchery has 10 recirculating 600-gal round broodstock holding tanks, three 1,000-gal spawning tanks, 12 McDonald upwelling hatching jars and 24 self-contained 150-gal fry-rearing tanks. The nursery consists of 36 1,000-gal round tanks on three recirculating systems. Grow-out occurs in 47 30,000-gal round tanks, operating as completely flow-through to completely recirculated. No antibiotics or other substances are used to farm the fish, and the feed is all “certified sustainable” from Ewos. Oliva’s relationship with Ewos began over a decade ago when he was the manager of a salmon hatchery in Alaska. There he found Ewos outperformed other feeds and he formed a great relationship with the Ewos feed rep. He says all the Ewos feeds have been useful at KMFC, but especially the #00 micro diet. “[It] has reduced mortalities in our swim-up fry (first feeding) by about 50 percent over the #0 feed and…a doubling in growth rate.” It’s in KMFC’s feed trials in the grow-out phase, however, where Oliva says Ewos’ knowledge in fish nutrition and feed manufacturing has been particularly valuable. KMFC’s fish are red tilapia, and in Oliva’s words, “we wanted something that would make their color pop. We had Ewos add some astaxanthin to the feeds, which has the additional benefit of providing antioxidants to the diet. The fish responded beautifully with color and vigor.” A colour change in the flesh (desired by some customers) is achieved through longer feed duration and higher amounts of astaxanthin. KMFC’s latest trial involves feed higher in protein and fat to produce fish that really smoke well, and initial results look promising, Oliva says. Farm-to-market It was critical from the start for KMFC to be an integrated operation — from egg to processing — because Hawaii has strict importation rules, Oliva adds. This arrangement also circumvents the increasing threat of tilapia lake virus (TiLV) reaching the islands. Having a processing facility is “necessary to be able to sell and market the amount of tilapia we are producing and will be producing,” says Oliva. “We have 1 million lbs of fish ready now and we hope to have at least moved 3 million lbs through the system by years’ end. With the completion of our fish processing facility slated for March, we will be looking to bring our satellite co-op farms on board. We provide the technical and biological expertise, the seed stock and feed to the farmers, so we will be able to control the quality and consistency.”  In addition, KMFC will expand its hatchery and nursery, and add 40 more grow-out tanks. The firm will start shipping its production to mainland wholesale distributors and also start producing whole frozen fish and fillets (including a very small frozen fillet for the USDA farm-to-school program). “We even have interest in our product from buyers in South Korea,” Oliva reports.     Over his nearly 30 years in aquaculture, Oliva has seen consumer attitudes fluctuate, and notes that the times where consumer perception is down were usually a result of unsubstantiated rumors started by a person or group with an agenda. When a fish farmer or the industry in general can address legitimate concerns with scientific truth however, he notes public attitudes become positive. Oliva believes the future is bright for aquaculture as the need for healthy, sustainable protein grows.
Over the past 14 years, the aquaculture industry has seen a roughly 80-percent decline in the amount of pond space dedicated to catfish, from a peak of around 80,000 hectares in 2002 to about 25,000 hectares in 2016.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached a milestone in May with its first harvest of an all-female generation of mature sablefish. This is a landmark achievement as it makes the farming of this tasty, buttery fish on a commercial scale within the grasp of US fish farmers. The fish harvested weighed an average of 5.47 lbs each, for a total of a whopping 20,227 kgs (roughly 44,593 lbs).
Good news to tilapia aficionados: tilapia has always been good for you.  A study showed tilapia’s Omega-6 to Omega-3 (n6:n3) ratios is relatively low compared to normal US diets. This disproves the “worse than bacon” allegation made in 2008 that was based on a study conducted by a research team that exaggerated its interpretation of how tilapia’s n6:n3 ratios were bad for the health.
The permitting process allowing commercial fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico has been in place for a little over a year now but no one has applied for a permit, acknowledged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently.
Sea lice have long been a research focus at Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO) St Andrews Biological Station (SABS). Recently, studies have focused on the ecology of their early life history stages, non-chemical methods to reduce their incidence, and genetic selection of sea-lice-resistant Atlantic salmon. These elements have been, or are being studied, in an attempt to combat sea lice outbreaks in near-shore ocean caged fish.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is beginning the early stages of work towards opening up federal waters in the Pacific Ocean to aquaculture operations but some are concerned that developing regulations before an industry is established may prevent growth.
As wild fish stocks are being harvested to capacity and global demand for seafood continues to grow, some sectors are espousing that land-based salmon farms are the answer. At present, most land-based farms operate for smolt production. So how economically viable is it to raise salmon on land through harvest size? And what are the implications?
New Brunswick’s oyster exports grew 18.6 percent to $5.8 million in 2017 from the previous year, continuing the industry’s rally. Overall industry growth was at 57 percent over the past five years, measured in terms of oyster bags in water, which in 2017 was at 518,000.  
A probiotic supplement that has been proven to boost larval oyster survival by 20 to 35 percent is ready for manufacturing but the path to commercialization may not be that easy.Probiotic OY15, a benign strain of Vibrio bacteria found in the oyster gut, was developed by microbiologist Diane Kapareiko and her team at NOAA Fisheries Milford Laboratory in Milford, Connecticut. Their goal was to help oyster hatchery managers boost the survival of Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) larvae and seed, and improve their defenses against bacteria.It is a promising drug, but Tom Hashman, director of business development for Envera, said there are hurdles for getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve any probiotic, and a Vibrio-based bacteria might present additional hurdles. While this particular Vibrio strain is confirmed benign and has shown it can be a “good” bacteria that boosts the oyster’s immune system and is safe for humans to handle, harmful Vibrio strains known to be human pathogens can cause serious illness and be fatal if an immune-compromised person ingests them or is infected through a cut in their skin while swimming in seawater.  Kapareiko says a partner is now being sought to produce the probiotic on a commercial scale.  “If it were to go commercial, in a perfect world, if we had a company that said yes and went forward with commercializing it, it could possibly be another couple of years before it reaches the market,” she said.
New Brunswick’s oyster farming industry has grown 57 percent over the past five years due to the mechanization of farming processes and access to funding, according to Marie-Josée Maillet of the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.
Shellfish farmers in British Columbia faced an interesting problem in 2017: there was more demand than they could supply. “All production was spoken for, no farmer had any problem selling his shellfish. The biggest problem was producing enough to meet the demand,” says Darlene Winterburn, executive director of the BC Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA). Behind the industry’s struggle to meet demand is the regulatory process for assigning, modifying or expanding tenures for shellfish farms. The lengthy process limits industry expansion and it is a challenge that the association continues to work towards a resolution. “The government came up with a new harmonized form this year, we’ll see how that works out,” says Winterburn. “We’re hopeful that it will be a positive change. We’re working with the government on addressing problems because we are limited in our ability to expand production. It also raises issues around the level of security that people have when investing in infrastructure to increase their production. But everybody is working together.” 2017 began with a significant challenge as the winter season saw an outbreak of norovirus. The British Columbia Medical Journal eventually attributed that outbreak to sewage-related contamination spread by ocean currents. Winterburn says the association worked with all levels of government to address the issue. A working group including the BCSGA, government and other stakeholders modified the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program to include site response measures, including temporary shellfish closures. The program is run by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “With that, there has been a broader awareness of the importance of clean water to produce healthy animals, which are critical to a healthy people and a healthy planet,” says Winterburn. “Safety of our products is a top priority and, as an industry, we do everything we can to ensure that.” The installation of a “Burke-o-Lator” water-quality monitoring device in Baynes Sound was another positive development for the industry. The device collects real-time ocean acidification data, enabling shellfish farmers to make informed decisions on when to grow larvae, when to set juvenile oysters out into the field, or when to draw the thousands of gallons of seawater they need to fill their tanks, for instance. The project is a joint effort between BCSGA and the Vancouver Island University. Live feed of data is open to the general public. “This is going to provide really strong foundational data that pertains to environmental intelligence in Baynes Sound and it’s going to be key for all sorts of science,” says Winterburn. “It’s going to be quite invaluable as we’re looking at global issues as well as industry-specific issues.” Another challenge that the association is addressing is debris from shellfish farms that strong winds cast out into the ocean. As earlier reported in Aquaculture North America, BCSGA led a “Turn It In Week” over the summer, where the association and partners set up large bins in strategic locations around the province, enabling farmers to easily dispose disused equipment and other refuse from their farms. BCSGA also collaborated with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to organize a beach clean up on Denman Island and other beaches in the area. “We still have some work to do, but the vast majority of our farmers are quite responsible,” says Winterburn. “While they’re out doing their business, whether they’re on the farm or travelling back and forth, debris is an issue. They’ll stop and pick it up, they want to make sure that their beach is in a good state of care. As an association, we encourage our members to be good neighbours.” Other issues that the industry faced in 2017 included feed availability, high cost of equipment and the need for more research on production. The association is addressing these through collaborations with the Hakai Institue and the Vancouver Island University. “People are being really proactive to expand our capacity and to work through some of our issues,” says Winterburn. “We have no problem selling the product we have – there’s a shortage of product. What we need are ways to enhance our production and to do that we need to overcome these challenges. If we’re able to jump those hurdles, the potential is limitless.” (This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2018 issue of Aquaculture North America.)
Connecticut's shellfish industry has grown drastically, with all indications showing that trend will continue. A report from the University of Connecticut, sales between 2007 and 2015 increased by nearly 100 percent, to a value of nearly $30 million in 2015. Connecticut Sea Grant, meanwhile, is conducting a more comprehensive study into the state’s industry, which will be completed by October this year. Every five years, the University of Connecticut conducts an economic assessment of the entire agriculture industry, taking raw harvest data and estimating the multiplier effects on the economy. It also looks at direct sales, jobs and how that revenue plays out in the local and state economy. “There’s been a gradual increase in oyster production,” says Tessa Getchis, aquaculture extension specialist and educator with the Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension Program. “We had a disease event in the late’90s that wiped out most of our oysters. We saw a slow recovery at first and now a more rapid recovery.” Getchis says increased diversification of operations and techniques have helped strengthen the industry. While a large portion of the industry continues to harvest seed from natural, public oyster beds, some use the remote setting technique of oyster seed production when natural seed supplies are not available consistently. The state has also seen the industry diversify into container culture, where producers utilize flip bags or cages rather than traditional beds. These tend to be smaller operations, but still important to the growth and health of the industry. “A volume of shellfish is still coming out of those natural beds, but the diversification is coming from these smaller operations that are located near shore and are using different types of gear to grow oysters,” says Getchis. “We’ve had a lot of interest in that, and it is poised to scale up.” Connecticut Sea Grant’s study into the industry is tied to the Connecticut Shellfish Initiative, which aims to grow all of the shellfish sectors in the state. Getchis says that they are collecting information about jobs, harvesting areas, types of gear used and other information to create a baseline to inform the growth of the industry. “It’s a plan that was developed by interested parties, a public process and an evolving process,” says Getchis. “Things that were important a year ago when we created the plan may not be as important now or may have already been addressed. There are new challenges that arise and new opportunities. It’s a living document and we’re working on the implementation of the plan.”
Alaska, the United States’ top producer of wild seafood, is just in its infancy when it comes to farming it. Current and prospective farmers are looking at the technology and equipment used in Maine, where farming of shellfish and seaweed have been a commercial success for years.
Why not Alaska?  That’s a question that Alaska shellfish and seaweed growers are starting to ask themselves.  The $6-billion seafood industry in the state produces more seafood than the rest of the US combined.  Indeed, if Alaska were a country it would be in the top 10 for seafood production, yet almost all of that comes from the wild fishery.
The livelihoods of oyster farmers in British Columbia, Canada are at risk from a norovirus outbreak that has sickened hundreds in three provinces and forced the closure of nine shellfish farms as of March.
Dynamic and informative industry seminars and speakers, business development networking events, and facility site tours are just some of the reasons to add this event to your busy schedule.
A company in Newfoundland hopes that access to feed specially formulated for sea urchins will change its luck. Green Seafoods did grow-out trials in 2000 but the biggest problem was securing the right feed to increase the roe (gonads) to a marketable size. Operations manager Mark Sheppard says the sea urchins they were raising ended up tasting like what they had just eaten, for instance, kelp or fish protein. With access to feed developed by Norway-based Urchinomics and Nofima, he hopes this second round of sea urchin grow-out trials will yield better results. The feed is special in that it holds its form in water for between seven to 14 days without dissolving, a quality important for urchins because they take a long time to eat. “We know that it works in the lab. We are going to do some full-blown commercial trials this fall,” he says.
Feeding farmed fish with live feeds that are nutritionally enhanced with nutrient-dense liposomes could become a reality sooner than later. Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have been studying ways to deliver water-soluble nutrients to aquatic organisms. The problem is that water-soluble nutrients can be rapidly lost from artificial feeds when they are added to the water, resulting in nutrient losses and poor water quality.Liposomes are microscopic particles that are constructed very similar to cell membranes. They are small enough to feed to rotifers and Artemia that are used as live feeds in marine finfish hatcheries. Importantly, liposomes very effectively retain water-soluble compounds when suspended in water. OSU researchers are exploring the use of soy-based liposomes for delivering essential nutrients to larval fish and other aquatic organisms.During his PhD studies, Dr Matt Hawkyard collaborated with researchers from Norway to develop larger scale batches of liposomes to match the scale of aquaculture production. Through feeding nutrient-dense liposomes to Artemia and rotifers, Hawkyard hopes that they can make a drastic impact on mortality rates and improve larval quality in the industry.“We can actually boost the level of, say, taurine, that we know is an essential compound, very much like amino acid, and we can boost those concentrations in rotifers to levels that are beneficial to fish,” says Hawkyard. “These [particles] are extremely efficient and deliver a pretty high payload.”Hawkyard says that after feeding liposome-fed rotifers to Northern Rock Sole larvae they found a tremendous impact on growth after a six-week feeding trial, compared to control groups. Since establishing the potential of the liposomes for such work with taurine, researchers have successfully utilized liposomes to deliver vitamin C, iodine, selenium and other nutrients.One of the key benefits of the liposomes is the prevention of nutrient leaching. One could achieve similar growth results through taurine by simply dissolving a great deal of taurine into rotifer water, says Hawkyard, however that would take 60 to 100 times more taurine because much of the nutrient doesn’t make it to the rotifer. Plus, the wasted nutrients provide a “broth” for bacteria.By improving the quality of live feeds, Hawkyard hopes that they are not only able to reduce mortality rates, but also malformation rates.“Even as we decrease mortality rates and increase survival, you see a pretty high rate of malformations in a lot of marine fish juveniles,” says Hawkyard. “Jaw deformities are really common in a number of species, and fin development and scoliosis – a wide variety of these kinds of physical malformations show up in the later phases. But they look like they’re related to things that are happening in the larval stage and, probably, a large number of that, or at least a fraction of those malformations are due to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.”Going forward, Hawkyard says OSU are working on a few other particle types, including a complex particle where they are trying to integrate liposomes into a larger particle to feed directly to fish.
ADM Animal Nutrition launched at Aquaculture America a new protein source for aquaculture, called PROPLEX T. Composed of dried fermentation biomass, PROPLEX T provides a consistent source of digestible protein and high levels of essential amino acids for fish and shrimp. The company says PROPLEX T has proven to be a successful replacement for other protein sources, such as fishmeal, in diets for fish and shrimp. “PROPLEX T is a cost-effective protein source that can be used in place of expensive or variable protein products,” said Dr John Bowzer, aquaculture research scientist for ADM. “Additionally, PROPLEX T provides feed manufacturers with added flexibility in formulations due to its high protein content and favorable amino acid profile.”
Canola oil could someday become a common ingredient for salmon feed. At the moment, raising fish rich in Omega-3s means supplementing their feed with fish oil. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) said preliminary results of their study show Omega-3 oil derived from canola is safe to use as ingredient in salmon feed. Canola is a vegetable oil derived from rapeseed, which is rich in the marine fatty acid DHA. Results of the Nofima study show salmon given feed containing Omega-3 Canola had the same Omega-3 levels as salmon fed with fish oil. Gene expression analyses showed that effects depended on the amount of oil, not the type of oil, the study says. Feed producer Cargill is developing a new type of canola oil for use in fish feed.
FeedKind protein, a new fish-feed ingredient touted to reduce aquaculture’s use of fishmeal, is expected to reach the market in 2019 once commercial production begins at Calysta Inc’s Tennessee facility.
The US aquaculture industry faces numerous hurdles: a negative image, a difficult regulatory environment and, crucially, a shortage of educated, skilled workers.
As aquaculture continues to produce an increasingly larger portion of seafood consumed in the world, it also becomes a larger and more lucrative market. In recent years that market has attracted the attention of a variety of big grain trading companies that have sought to diversify their products. Companies such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge Ltd and Terra Via shared with Aquaculture North America (ANA) why they wanted to become a part of the aquaculture market.
How a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) works will be just one of the things students in North Carolina can learn through a mobile aquaculture lab currently being built in the state.Project proponents North Carolina Sea Grant (NCSG) and Carteret Community College (CCC) expect the lab to promote aquaculture education, training and employment opportunities in the state.The lab, which is scheduled for completion by the end of June, is part of a larger project called Building the Marine Aquaculture Career Pipeline. As part of the project, NCSG has taken part in several events where they brought touch tanks and animals to schools. But CCC Aquaculture Department Chair David Cerino says this new lab will be on another level.“It’s a flatbed trailer on which we are going to put a touch tank that can transport animals and quickly set it up so those animals can go into smaller trays for interaction. There will be a RAS system that will have fish in it, with all the components of a RAS system so we can explain what each part does and highlight that aspect of aquaculture.”The mobile lab will also display different types of gear and information on different aquaculture techniques as well as monitors for visual presentations. The modular lab can have new elements added, as necessary.“I do a lot of work in high schools in North Carolina to educate students about the opportunities in marine aquaculture,” says Jane Harrison, Coastal Economics Specialist with NCSG. “I can go in and give a power point presentation, but if they can’t see what these creatures really look like and get their hands on them, it’s not as effective.”Another aspect of the project is developing curriculum for teaching about aquaculture. Harrison says that she hopes the mobile lab might inspire some teachers to create permanent aquaculture labs at their schools.
With the help of over $30,000 in travel grants, 14 students from universities around the world will showcase their research at the 8th International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health (ISAAH), which will be held September 2-6, 2018, in Charlottetown, PEI. ISAAH, held every four years, is co-hosted this year by the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), the PEI BioAlliance, and the American Fisheries Society-Fish Health Section. This will be only the second time that it has been hosted in Canada since the inaugural conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1988. The travel grants are provided by the Fish Health Section of the American Fisheries Society and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Aquatic Epidemiology located at AVC. The students will present research on topics including emerging diseases in fish and biosecurity implications; the effects of the ornamental aquarium fish trade; injuries and disease in Pacific salmon; and pathogens and parasites affecting various species like wild and farmed fish, crustaceans, manatees, and amphibians. “This conference is an excellent opportunity for the students to present their research and to network with world leaders in aquatic animal health,” said Dr David Groman, local chair of the conference and Section Head for Aquatic Diagnostic Services at AVC. Early bird registration for the symposium ends on July 13. For more information, visit https://isaah2018.com/
As important as having the specialized skillset, an aquaculture diver should also have the temperament to get the job done, writes Kelly N. Korol.
IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organisation has appointed Petter Martin Johannessen as director general.
Steve Summerfelt has joined the first commercial-scale Atlantic salmon RAS facility in the US.“My experience at the Freshwater Institute has been incredible. We have overcome many of the biological, technical, and economic challenges that fish farmers must overcome when using RAS. Many challenges remain for commercial producers using RAS and the Freshwater Institute team and facilities are still well prepared to develop solutions to overcome these challenges,” Summerfelt told Aquaculture North America (ANA). “The massive expansion of the land-based salmon-trout farming industry is actually quite intimidating because I’m not convinced that all of the players have the technology and experience to do this right. Yet, with this transition, I will be able to help Superior Fresh – the leader in commercial land-based production of Atlantic salmon in the USA – sustainably expand production of both fish and produce,” he continued. “I look forward to continuing to innovate and optimize RAS and aquaponic production while working for industry. This will also allow me to continue providing the very best technology to Superior Fresh and hopefully leave a legacy of success.”
Aquasend, a subsidiary of Precision Measurement Engineering, introduced at Aquaculture America 2018 its new device for monitoring dissolved oxygen, called clearDOT logger.
With help from a newly launched management software, oyster farmers can now access what’s happening throughout their operation at any time.
Animal feed producer ADM Animal Nutrition has appointed Dr John Bowzer as lead research scientist in aquaculture. Bowzer is “tasked with strengthening ADM’s commitment to developing ingredients and products that deliver value to the rapidly growing aquaculture industry,” the company said in a statement. He will also lead ADM’s efforts to expand its research capabilities through development of an aquaculture wet lab, it added. Bowzer received his doctorate in zoology from Southern Illinois University in 2014. “He brings significant technical expertise in fish and shrimp nutrition and physiology to ADM Animal Nutrition,” said ADM
China is not one to get left behind as a new era in fish farming begins.
Hoopers Island Oyster Co of Maryland has been named as distributor for Australia’s Hexcyl Systems. The Hexcyl system is designed for the Australian long-line method of oyster growing and was awarded a 2017 Australian Good Design Award. “We were looking to change methods of growing oysters from the bottom-cage method we were using to transition to a better quality oyster,” says Hoopers Island managing partner Ricky Fitzhugh. “We thought the Hexcyl was a better quality product. We started to order some of the equipment and through a representative coming here to see us and seeing what we were about and how we were involved in the equipment side of it, they thought it would be a good fit for us to distribute them as well.” Hoopers Island manager of equipment and product sales Sean Grizzell says the Hexcyl system’s simplicity is one of its best features. It takes very little time to assemble the system. “Each product in the market has some sort of assembly required. No jigs nor other tools needed. It allows you to be efficient putting it together.” At 25 liters, the larger basket size of the Hexcyl system also allows flexibility to producers, says Grizzell. “You can change the stocking density to the level of quality of oyster you want. You can stock them heavy or you can stock them light, depending on what kind of market you’re in.”
An aquaculture veteran was honoured with the first Atlantic Canada Aquaculture Award at a gala event in St Andrews, New Brunswick in October. Skretting International’s Gary Taylor was recognized for his contribution to the success and growth of salmon farming on Canada’s east coast. Taylor, a resident of St Stephen, praised the salmon farming industry when he accepted the award. “I tell young people, ‘Boy you’ve picked a good industry,” he told the crowd of more than 100 industry representatives from around the world who attended the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association’s 30th anniversary gala. “It’s something to be proud of. Everyone in this room deserves a hand for the great industry we have developed.” Taylor graduated from the Aquaculture Technician Program at the New Brunswick Community College in St. Andrews in 1981. He immediately began his career in Dark Harbour Grand Manan, where he became the first site manager in New Brunswick. In 1988 he joined feed company Skretting International. “We have such a great industry here. It’s a story to tell. We’ve got the best protein in the world that’s the least intrusive on the environment,” he said. Larry Ingalls, ACFFA Chair, said Taylor’s professionalism, commitment, hard work and passion for the industry deserved to be recognized. “Gary has been involved with many innovations as the industry has evolved to what it is today, one of the most significant economic drivers in Atlantic Canada…. We’re proud that he is the inaugural recipient of this award.”
Seafood and produce packaging manufacturer Seaca Packing and A.A. Childs Brokerage have teamed up with Packaging Products Corporation (PPC) in New Bedford and Miami to further expand the market reach of their plastic corrugated boxes for seafood along the entire East Coast and beyond. SeaCa partnered with A.A. Childs Brokerage in 2016 to introduce their 100-percent recyclable alternative line to the northeast seafood markets. The latest union comes at a time when plastic corrugated boxes are gaining support in the seafood industry as both a 100-percent recyclable alternative to wax and offering cost savings abilities along the entire shipping chain with its lightweight yet durable construction, said the companies in a statement. “The industry is now asking questions about plastic corrugated, which is good,” said Ted Heidenreich, President of PPC. “Our reach and experience in packaging for the seafood industry allows us to introduce the many advantages of plastic corrugated when compared to wax and foam boxes so seafood shippers can make informed decisions.”
Whole Oceans is building a land-based Atlantic salmon farm in a former paper mill in the state. Repurposing the paper mill has saved the company a lot of money, according to head of Business Development Ben Willaeur. “Paper-making also involves high intensity water usage and the intake and discharge saltwater so the infrastructure already exists. That reduced our costs tremendously,” Willaeur says.The farm will create 50-60 jobs directly, as well as a number of indirect jobs through construction or byproduct utilization. The facility is the first of many being planned by Whole Oceans in Maine. CEO Rob Piasio hopes the company could eventually capture 10 percent of the domestic salmon market.“We’ll achieve that goal by growing numerous farms in different locations in Maine; that will get us to 50,000 metric tons of capacity, or more,” says Willaeur. “But it’s a long-term goal. That could take 20 years, or more, but it’s ultimately something that may happen much sooner than expected.”While acknowledging that the 50K MT capacity is a very large number relative to what is currently being grown in RAS facilities within and outside the US, Willaeur believes it is something the market can bear. “There is, I think, going to be an awareness that the consumer will bring when they become more familiar with the quality that RAS fish possess in terms of their taste, but also in terms of the fact that they’re taking pressure off an endangered wild species and really have controlled food and water quality.”Market demand is promising. Whole Oceans says it has already pre-sold 100 percent of its projected inventory. Willaeur downplays competition among RAS producers; instead, he speaks highly about the work done by contemporaries such as Nordic Aquafarms and Atlantic Sapphire in this sector. He believes the market has more than enough room for everyone.“The industry is dynamic enough that we find most participants consider themselves as partners rather than competitors. Everybody wants each other to be successful. There’s a lot of knowledge-sharing in terms of the growth of the technology and the innovation that’s occurring.”That collaboration is part of why Willaeur and Piasio, both Maine natives,would like to see the state become a global hub for RAS technology. That hub would be formed both through partnerships with both the industry and academia. The knowledge base of RAS systems incorporates everything from chemistry to biology, electrical and mechanical engineering and international procurement.“There’s just a myriad of diverse centers of knowledge that we would be looking to recruit, and looking to acclimate specifically to our work. We feel that academic institutions in this state are rising to the occasion and are very interested in producing integrated academic offerings, partnering with industry partners within the state.”
Passionate farmers and technical experts are undaunted by challenges in their quest to buoy Alabama’s fledgling shrimp industry.
A visually appealing fish and short time to market are just some of the pluses of raising fish on land, says America’s sole producer of RAS-raised European seabass
Ryan Chatterson, a commercial aquaponics farmer and consultant in aquaponics design, engineering and educational services discusses how adding greens to your salmon makes a lot of sense.
Deep-water fishing project faces many regulatory challenges
The pristine waters of British Columbia provide Stellar Bay Shellfish the ideal growing conditions for its oysters for known their small size but plump meat.
Maine company focuses on oyster seed, the half-shell market and R&D
The prehistoric fish takes an epic time to mature. After harvesting, there are still a few more steps to ensure the quality reflects its premium price.
An interview with the director of the University of Idaho’s Aquaculture Research Institute Since its establishment in 1988, the Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) at the University of Idaho has been home to significant work looking at food production, fisheries enhancement and stock restoration. A driving force behind ARI’s work is its director, Ron Hardy. Though he is proud of the work that has been done over the years at the institute, Hardy says that’s not the most important part of their work. “I had a wise mentor explain to me that we are in the information business,” says Hardy. “He asked what I thought we did as scientists, I said we invent this or we discover that. He said, ‘no, our role isn’t necessarily to solve the problems that industry has today, ours is to work on today’s problems but also looking down the road to the future as best we can and see what the needs might be or what questions might arise.’ We see ourselves as ‘mini-futurists,’ in a way.” When ARI began doing selective breeding, no one else was pursuing such work and no one requested it of them, he says. But they decided that they needed to do it because there would come a time when it would be important. “That time is now,” says Hardy. “Actually, it’s past now, but you get the point. We need to get our information into the hands of people in the industry or other scientists or government people who are working on policy or regulations. These policies and regulations will be part of the fabric of how the industry operates and dictate its success or failure.” ARI’s work is focused on discoveries that advance sustainability. Hardy’s experience is as a fish nutritionist. His entire career, he’s been focused on alternative proteins and fats. He’s also been focused studying protein retention, which is the percentage of protein ingested that’s retained as protein gain in the body over a set period of time. Hardy says he was appalled 20 years ago when he found that the rate was in the 20-25 percent range. Across the industry, that protein retention rate has reached the low 40s, but he still wants to know what happens to that other 60 percent. “We’ve focused on that a lot, in collaboration with the USDA,” says Hardy. “We’ve looked at how to better manufacture feed, how to grind it better, how to make better pellets. We’ve also looked at lowering the environmental impact of aquaculture through increasing phosphorus retention.” Another ARI effort Hardy speaks fondly about is a trout breeding program that utilizes all-plant protein diet. The feeding regime, coupled an aggressive selection program, has improved the performance of trout over eight generations and they now grow twice as fast as when the program started 16 years ago. “We’re looking at why. What’s different in these fish – digestion, intestinal transporters, whatever – compared to non-selected fish and are there genetic markers that we can identify that we can go into another population, or another species even, and say ‘these individual fish have these characteristics that are linked to increased performance. They should be used for future generations.’” Hardy says USDA’s funding support has enabled ARI to conduct such programs. Much of ARI’s funding comes in two- to four-year grants, but more sustained funding is required to conduct genetic improvement effectively. ARI also conducts many shorter-term projects through funding from industry partners around the world. When Canada’s Enterra was looking into developing insect meal (as reported in ANA Sept 2017), ARI conducted the testing and evaluation of the feed. Enterra has since received approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to sell its whole dried black soldier fly larvae as a feed ingredient for salmonids. ARI is currently building a new fish lab on their campus, which will have the capacity to work on marine fish. This will allow them to apply the findings of their trout research into species such as salmon, amberjack and yellowtail. The new lab is expected to start operations by the end of year. Hardy is something of an elder statesman in the aquaculture research community. With new frontiers of research opening up, the industry veteran says today is an exciting time for aquaculture. “I wish I were starting my career now instead of ending it.” “It’s a very exciting time with new genomic technologies that let us look deeper into how fish operate, how the world works, how life works, in a way,” says Hardy. “We’re well positioned here at our laboratory, and I think the research community as a whole is well-positioned to make a substantial contribution to aquaculture in the future.”
Real Oyster Cult pioneers B2C overnight delivery of fresh oysters from 70 US farms Contrary to what the name may lead you to believe, there are no secret rituals or sacrifices involved in joining Real Oyster Cult. “Our hashtag and tagline - #jointhecult – is all about joining, having fun, and is wink, wink, get in on the party,” says Sims McCormick, the creative force behind Real Oyster Cult’s unique marketing. “We’re a cult of oyster lovers, life lovers. Let’s celebrate.” McCormick’s husband Rob Knecht spent most of his working life on the water, running a maritime school, and working as a sailing coach. When the couple launched the oyster farm in 2006, Knecht also worked with a technology company. At that company, it was interactions with technologists, developers and designers that sparked the idea to build a company that used technology to get oysters directly to consumers, shipped overnight. “We leverage our mobile app and our website to get in front of consumers online that want to source oysters from all over North America, and we make that happen for them,” says Knecht. “Our front-end technology really gives you access to the farmers, their story, and deeper dives if you’re really into flavour profiles, and details of the oyster and where they’re grown.” Real Oyster Cult sells product from over 70 farms (including their own), rotating which farms are featured on a weekly basis. Some products will stay longer based on demand, but they make efforts to highlight a new farmer at least once a week through their newsletter and their platform. Solving the technological and logistic challenges with this model is what Knecht calls their ”secret sauce.” “We’ve solved some of those issues with technology,” says Knecht. “We not only have our front end technology, but our backend tech helps smooth that process out. Some of them are custom and proprietary, and others are technologies that you can get; whether it’s Slack technology [a cloud-based suite of collaboration tools] or another third party that we implement into our system.” While Real Oyster Cult has sold oysters to chefs on a limited level, the majority of the clientele is B2C — end consumers who love oyster lovers and adventurous foodies. Knecht says they are riding the wave of Plated, Blue Apron and other ready-to-cook meal kits, which opened a window into people’s buying habits. They have shipped to all 48 continental states and their most popular markets currently include Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Colorado and Pennsylvania. However, freshness is important, particularly as it comes to shellfish. As always, Real Oyster Cult answers the challenge with technology. “We use a little gel temp sensor in our package, which provides a level of security on temperature so that the consumer knows that they’ve stayed under about 50 degrees for the whole trip to their door,” says Knecht. Cultivating a community While the business certainly sees booms around holidays, where customers may want oysters for celebrations and events, they also have a monthly cult membership which sends 20, 40 or 60 oysters every month. The cult membership features oysters hand curated by Knecht and McCormick. “We’re picking some very special oysters based on what’s highly in season and what’s tasting phenomenally,” says Knecht. “They’re going to be at their peak flavours and they’re going to be the best of the best. And we also try to pick what’s not readily available everywhere, oysters you may not find at any restaurant — ones that are only locally sourced, for instance. We like to give our cult members something special.” The cult theme may be whimsical, but it also refers to a real community and culture which McCormick and Knecht attempt to cultivate. They interact directly with their customers through a variety of platforms. McCormick notes that their Facebook page is currently blowing up with excitement over Glacier Point oysters from Halibut Cove, Alaska. “They obviously have a really nice community of supporters around them that were able to share the story and comment on it,” says McCormick. “The oysters are truly glacier-fed. Theirs is a great story – husband and wife team, raising oysters, mussels and kids in remote Alaska. We got a chance to tell their story across our platform and on social media last week and the response was tremendous. That’s really what we’re all about, trying to spread the love – give our customers direct access to the farmers and regions that grow oysters and giving the farmers a platform to shine.” Award-winning In November, Real Oyster Cult were one of the eight finalists awarded a cash prize at Fish 2.0’s 2017 Innovation Forum. Fish 2.0’s release says the winners were selected for ”simplifying supply chains while increasing income for fishers and farmers, bringing to market creative approaches to aquaculture production and traceability, and getting consumers excited about seafood.” “We had a great experience there, met a lot of great people,” says Knecht. “Getting to meet folks and hearing about their challenges and different things they were working through at start-up. It was very refreshing. We still keep in touch with the folks that we’ve met through that. Trying to help each other out and network, even on a global scale, is what’s neat about the program, for sure.” Looking forward, they hope that the networking opportunities that Fish 2.0 offers will help them as they develop their next steps forward – expanding into international markets, and, domestically, moving into a direct chef/pop-up model. But in the meantime, they are happy to grow their cult. “We’ve had such a great response from people who said, ‘I never would have gotten any kind of live seafood shipped to my door. And I’ve never shucked an oyster before, but I did this, and I watched your video on how to shuck, and taught my daughter and had an amazing experience,’” says McCormick. “That is just so much fun for us. We converted them.”
Real Oyster Cult pioneers B2C overnight delivery of fresh oysters from 70 US farms Contrary to what the name may lead you to believe, there are no secret rituals or sacrifices involved in joining Real Oyster Cult. “Our hashtag and tagline - #jointhecult – is all about joining, having fun, and is wink, wink, get in on the party,” says Sims McCormick, the creative force behind Real Oyster Cult’s unique marketing. “We’re a cult of oyster lovers, life lovers. Let’s celebrate.” McCormick’s husband Rob Knecht spent most of his working life on the water, running a maritime school, and working as a sailing coach. When the couple launched the oyster farm in 2006, Knecht also worked with a technology company. At that company, it was interactions with technologists, developers and designers that sparked the idea to build a company that used technology to get oysters directly to consumers, shipped overnight. “We leverage our mobile app and our website to get in front of consumers online that want to source oysters from all over North America, and we make that happen for them,” says Knecht. “Our front-end technology really gives you access to the farmers, their story, and deeper dives if you’re really into flavour profiles, and details of the oyster and where they’re grown.” Real Oyster Cult sells product from over 70 farms (including their own), rotating which farms are featured on a weekly basis. Some products will stay longer based on demand, but they make efforts to highlight a new farmer at least once a week through their newsletter and their platform. Solving the technological and logistic challenges with this model is what Knecht calls their ”secret sauce.” “We’ve solved some of those issues with technology,” says Knecht. “We not only have our front end technology, but our backend tech helps smooth that process out. Some of them are custom and proprietary, and others are technologies that you can get; whether it’s Slack technology [a cloud-based suite of collaboration tools] or another third party that we implement into our system.” While Real Oyster Cult has sold oysters to chefs on a limited level, the majority of the clientele is B2C — end consumers who love oyster lovers and adventurous foodies. Knecht says they are riding the wave of Plated, Blue Apron and other ready-to-cook meal kits, which opened a window into people’s buying habits. They have shipped to all 48 continental states and their most popular markets currently include Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Colorado and Pennsylvania. However, freshness is important, particularly as it comes to shellfish. As always, Real Oyster Cult answers the challenge with technology. “We use a little gel temp sensor in our package, which provides a level of security on temperature so that the consumer knows that they’ve stayed under about 50 degrees for the whole trip to their door,” says Knecht. Cultivating a community While the business certainly sees booms around holidays, where customers may want oysters for celebrations and events, they also have a monthly cult membership which sends 20, 40 or 60 oysters every month. The cult membership features oysters hand curated by Knecht and McCormick. “We’re picking some very special oysters based on what’s highly in season and what’s tasting phenomenally,” says Knecht. “They’re going to be at their peak flavours and they’re going to be the best of the best. And we also try to pick what’s not readily available everywhere, oysters you may not find at any restaurant — ones that are only locally sourced, for instance. We like to give our cult members something special.” The cult theme may be whimsical, but it also refers to a real community and culture which McCormick and Knecht attempt to cultivate. They interact directly with their customers through a variety of platforms. McCormick notes that their Facebook page is currently blowing up with excitement over Glacier Point oysters from Halibut Cove, Alaska. “They obviously have a really nice community of supporters around them that were able to share the story and comment on it,” says McCormick. “The oysters are truly glacier-fed. Theirs is a great story – husband and wife team, raising oysters, mussels and kids in remote Alaska. We got a chance to tell their story across our platform and on social media last week and the response was tremendous. That’s really what we’re all about, trying to spread the love – give our customers direct access to the farmers and regions that grow oysters and giving the farmers a platform to shine.” Award-winning In November, Real Oyster Cult were one of the eight finalists awarded a cash prize at Fish 2.0’s 2017 Innovation Forum. Fish 2.0’s release says the winners were selected for ”simplifying supply chains while increasing income for fishers and farmers, bringing to market creative approaches to aquaculture production and traceability, and getting consumers excited about seafood.” “We had a great experience there, met a lot of great people,” says Knecht. “Getting to meet folks and hearing about their challenges and different things they were working through at start-up. It was very refreshing. We still keep in touch with the folks that we’ve met through that. Trying to help each other out and network, even on a global scale, is what’s neat about the program, for sure.” Looking forward, they hope that the networking opportunities that Fish 2.0 offers will help them as they develop their next steps forward – expanding into international markets, and, domestically, moving into a direct chef/pop-up model. But in the meantime, they are happy to grow their cult. “We’ve had such a great response from people who said, ‘I never would have gotten any kind of live seafood shipped to my door. And I’ve never shucked an oyster before, but I did this, and I watched your video on how to shuck, and taught my daughter and had an amazing experience,’” says McCormick. “That is just so much fun for us. We converted them.”
A Florida cooperative brings oyster farmers together to share experiences, get support and have a guaranteed place to sell their product, at a guaranteed price. The Panacea Oyster Co-op is a collaborative enterprise borne out of a desire to strengthen and revitalize oyster farming in Florida’s Apalachee Bay and other parts of the estuary. By bringing together individual farmers to work towards a common goal, the co-op has brought its members collective benefits. Its efforts are paying off, for the co-op has been championed by US sustainable seafood investment forum, Fish 2.0. The co-op was formed two years ago by a group of classmates at the Wakulla Environmental Institute’s Oyster Aquaculture program. While working on separate aquaculture operations, an Australian equipment supplier suggested that they consider forming a cooperative. It didn’t take much convincing; the group voted Rob Olin as CEO and, later, as chairman of the board. “We just cobbled a team of very diverse but incredibly talented professionals together for the business side,” says Olin. “I think we’ve attained our goal, which is to provide our members with everything they need — support in terms of accounting, legal, finance, operations, and advertising and marketing. So all they have to worry about is growing the perfect oyster. We now have a pretty substantial juggernaut.” A for-profit co-op The co-op provides seed, ongoing training, technology and a guaranteed place to sell their product, at a guaranteed price. They also help them make effective business plans. A key difference with many co-ops, Olin notes, is Panacea’s for-profit nature. “We have to have investors to build the infrastructure we needed. We have to have enough money to buy the marina to house everything. We had to have an actual structure for a USDA loan, so in that way we’re different.” As CEO and chairman, Olin is the decision-maker for a lot of day-to-day issues, however, larger questions regarding operations or philosophical changes are made with the 30 members of the co-op. The rancher members and the board of directors both meet once a month, in additional to an annual shareholders’ meeting. “We’ve been able to enhance the rancher’s performance by way of the financial allowance and economies of scale that we bring to the table,” says Olin. “This is brand new. And like anything you do that’s brand new, it’s like walking into a hotel room when the lights are off. You stumble around and you find your way and you start to get a rhythm, then you start to elevate your performance, and from that elevation you move on to perfect performance. We’ve been able to cover so much ground as a team that we could never have gotten done as any one individual.” The co-op also benefits from their location, next to Florida’s Spring Creek, the largest freshwater spring in the world. The pure spring water flows through and mixes with the saltwater, making up North America’s most diverse estuary. Olin says this allows for algae to thrive, which feeds the oysters and allows them to grow more quickly. The location also has two tides per day, which keeps nutrients moving in and out. “When you’ve got oysters that rely on filtering more than 50 gallons of water per day, giving them the mega nutrients that our waters do, that allows them to grow faster than anywhere else on the planet.” The farming operations are centered around the Apalachee Bay, which is part of the same estuary as the Apalachicola Bay. Farmers in the Apalachicola Bay harvested as much as 100 million oysters per year five years ago, but this has gone down to less than five million now. Olin hopes Panacea’s efforts to resurrect the oyster industry in Apalachee Bay will inspire farmers in the Apalachicola Bay. “We’re putting the money, capital and effort back into building the infrastructure into Apalachee Bay,” says Olin. “Hopefully folks in Apalachicola Bay will see the magic that happens from this reintroduction of oysters – a totally different way to harvest and they’ll embrace it and start doing it over in their own bay and bring back that incredible potential that they once had.” Panacea Oyster Co-op was one of the winners of the recent Fish 2.0 competition. The co-op’s ability to organize people and motivate them to commit to a shared endeavour has been a key factor behind its win, says Olin. Part of the appeal for many in the oyster farming industry is the independence and freedom it allows, but the co-op has convinced its members to give up some of that freedom for the greater good. “It’s kind of like the old west,” says Olin. “You’ve got a bunch of independent water cowboys and cowgirls. They can make their own agenda for the day because they can adjust to the tide, wind, temperature and current. They don’t especially like to be collaborators or joiners. But here, because the old ways—commercial fishing and commercial oyster harvesting—were gone forever, they saw hope in this new technology, this new way of doing things. And they committed, even though it went totally against their natural instincts and they’re building something much bigger than themselves.” Vision The goal of the co-op is to establish their model as a prototype that can be adapted in different areas, either as satellite operations, or the co-op can provide its services as mentors and consultants. The important thing is to help the industry get firmly established. Oysters are the ideal panacea not only to help supply the world’s growing need for food but also to keep the waters healthy, says Olin. “Oysters are essential for the survival of 3,000 aquatic species. They’re the original filters in the aquarium. Take the filters out, the aquarium dies. Put the filters back, the aquarium comes back to life. The best thing we can do is put filters back in the aquarium. The best way to do that is through aquaculture. The best way to make sure coastal communities see it is through this collective collaboration of a co-op.”

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