Indoor Rearing of the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) within a Recirculation Biofloc Aquaculture System

Progress report for FNC21-1273

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $18,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Grownup Vertical Farming
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Chandler Glover
Grownup Vertical Farming
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Project Information

Description of operation:

The operation is one of a controlled Recirculating Biofloc Aquaculture System. This system is operated in a 4000 sqft, climate-controlled, force-ventilated warehouse. This was done to manage and measure all variables, such as:
1. light duration and intensity
2. water salinity
3. water oxygen level
4. water carbon dioxide level
5. ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels
6. Agal growth rate and species composition
7. Agal Consumption Rates by Oysters
8. Water Flow rate
9. Respiration rate of the Algae
10. Respiration rate of the Oysters
11. Biofloculant rate of the oysters
12. Growth Rate of the Oysters


The American Eastern Oyster's (Crassostrea virginica) wild population numbers are sharply declining due to water quality and disease. This spells disaster for the American Oyster farmer and consumer as Crassostrea virginica is the most consumed oyster in the United States. The American Oyster's presence along American coastal waters is the basis of essential reef systems and water filtration. The goal is to test the feasibility of rearing American Eastern Oysters in a Recirculating Biofloc Aquaculture System. This system should reduce/eliminate losses or reduced quality of oyster stock affected by environmental factors, predators, natural disasters, and disease. As a result, oysters reared in this system should provide a higher quality end product and, as a corollary, allow the farmer to demand a higher price point. 

Project Objectives:
  1. Evaluate the American Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) respiration, feeding, and metabolism rates in a closed-loop Recirculating Biofloc Aquaculture System.
  2. Evaluate and compare the Growth rates of American Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) reared in a Recirculating Biofloc Aquaculture System to the documented growth rates of wild American Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) to form a viable harvest projection. 
  3. Identified Algal mix best suited for Oyster growth by life stage (I have been corresponding with Julie Trommatter, a Faculty research assistant at the UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE/Horn Point Laboratory/ Oyster Hatchery, who helped me formulate the correct mixture based on the local top quality oyster farm they've researched)
  4. Evaluate Algal nitrate consumption in a Recirculating Biofloc Aquaculture System.
  5. Evaluate Consumer response to Oyster quality
  6. Evaluate Commercial response to Oyster quality
  7. Evaluate new and existing local farmers' interests in adopting this system 


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Nadia Ruffin - Producer


Materials and methods:

The project has three different growing systems: quarantine, algae cultivation, and oyster rearing. The oyster rearing tanks will require three weeks of curing to ensure salinity and oxygen levels are correct to ensure oyster survivability. 


Quarantine Tank

Oyster spat bags will first be placed into a 100-gallon saltwater quarantine tank for 21 days to treat for any pathogens, monitor survivability, and acclimate the oysters to the saltwater. 

Algae Cultivation Tanks

The algae cultures used to feed the oysters will be purchased from the University of Maryland.  From this concentrated culture, we will dilute and then add to flasks and place the flasks under appropriate lighting to sustain algae growth. The algae cultures will grow for two weeks before adding them to the oyster tanks.  A large quantity of algae will then be added to the oyster tanks to allow them to grow. This will create the biofloc system. The oysters will feed on this algae. Aliquots of algae solution will be added weekly to maintain biofloc levels in the tanks. 

Oyster Grow-Out Tanks

Once the spat has gone through quarantine, the young oysters will be counted and distributed to each grow-out tank. Each tank will contain 5000 oysters in mesh bags. Each tank will be referred to as a colony. We intend to have ten colonies. Each day salinity, oxygen, and temperature levels will check oyster health. Oysters will be reared in these tanks until they reach a market size of 3 - 4 inches(roughly nine months). 

Research results and discussion:

My project is slated to use 10 IBC totes for rearing oysters. However, due to COVID restrictions on logistics essential items were on backorder which shifted my timeline. I started with two 275 IBC totes which allowed me to start rearing the oysters as well as optimize the water's salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, etc. We've also had to restart the project as our office has relocated into a larger more accommodating facility. As a corollary, our initial project completion time of January 2023 needs to be adjusted 1 year to January 2024. This will allow full project maturation. 

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools

Participation Summary:

1 Farmers participated
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Currently have developed an aquaculture project with local middle (Horizon Science Academy) and high school (Dohn High) students. Awaiting remaining funding to compliment the training series with provide practical applications. 

Learning Outcomes

Lessons Learned:

I have been corresponding with Julie Trommatter, a Faculty research assistant at the UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE/Horn Point Laboratory/ Oyster Hatchery, who helped me formulate the correct mixture based on the local top-quality oyster farm they've researched. This gives the highest probability that the oysters will have a premium taste. 

So far, my project has been stalled by COVID. Companies that supply essential parts like bubblers and ozone generators no longer exist, and the cheaper alternatives are not designed for commercial use. International equivalents are 40% more expensive and have extended shipping times. For instance, the Absolute Ozone® NANO Generator was $2,875 when budgeted.  Now the price of the generator is $3,999. The essential filter AST Endurance filter now costs $4,499, which represents a 51% increase in price. I have paid out of pocket for some parts, but I need the second part of the funding because the original six thousand dollar portion only covers 21% of the necessary funding. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.