Maine program pitches in over $3M to state’s economy

ANA staff
June 12, 2019
By ANA staff
An aquaculture program designed to support Maine’s coastal communities and help maintain the state’s working waterfront have contributed over $3.1 million to the state economy since its launch in 2016.

Called Aquaculture Business Development (ABD), the program was developed by Maine’s Island Institute with the goal to have 60 aquaculture businesses in the water by 2020. The program takes in 25 participants per year. Seventy-five participants have gone through the program to date, of which 20 have businesses with crops in the water. The institute estimates that those businesses have contributed over $3.1 million to Maine’s economy so far.

The non-profit saw aquaculture as a unique opportunity for local lobstermen to diversify their income in the off-season, according to Peter Piconi, Marine Business Specialist and program director with the Island Institute. “The program is based around kelp, mussel and oysters, so they can get into any part of that. But kelp especially grows during the off-season for lobsters, so they can bring a product to market in nine months, which builds some stability in their income. We saw that as a good fit,” says Piconi.

The program provides training on how to grow the product and teaches the important ins and outs of the industry, including the leasing process, site selection, business development planning, marketing strategy and farm management through a combination of classroom learning and practical learning through visits to farms in the area. The program also provides financing and business support during the first three years of operation.

“This is the only resource we could find that brought the current information and made the connections we needed to make a decision on moving forward,” says Jason Joyce, a commercial lobster fisherman who has since formed Swan’s Island Oyster Farm.

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