Determining Optimal Tumbling Schedule to Shape Petite Oysters in Highly Productive Waters and Access New Markets

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $29,865.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Little Minnow Oyster Company
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Noah Scheffer
Little Minnow Oyster Company


  • Animals: shellfish


  • Animal Production: aquaculture
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns

    Proposal summary:

    As new oyster farms are started each year the market competition
    increases. On Martha’s Vineyard, a dozen oyster farms have been
    operating successfully in Katama Bay for nearly 30 years, where
    the salinty is moderately high, rich in phytoplankton and has
    favorable temperatures. Farms in Katama Bay achieve market size
    of 3”+ in 18-24 months. Recently, many consumers prefer “petite”
    oysters, or one that is 2.5-3”. Growers in Katama struggle to
    produce a well-cupped, petite oyster because the fast growing
    conditions. The inability to produce a specific product creates
    instability in some of the farms, as other growing areas are able
    to produce quality petites. In order to maintain competitiveness,
    farms in Katama Bay and other highly productive growing areas
    will need to adapt and create new methods for different results.

    We propose a series of experiments to control the size and shape
    of the oyster through handling and tumbling. It is
    well-established that tumbling oysters encourages the oyster to
    grow deeper and wider, instead of longer. Currently, the custom
    of most Katama Bay farms is to tumble the oysters just once
    before market, to round off the sharp growing edge. Additional
    tumbling sessions will cost labor and equipment time, and there
    for determining the optimal input needed for the desired output,
    is critical to the sustainability of the businesses. With the
    help of Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group scientific staff, we
    will compare the cost of increased handling to the benefit of
    improved shape, size and meat quality. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of this project is to find the optimal tumbling
    schedule to achieve well-shaped, petite oysters. The amount of
    labor and equipment time will be weighed against size, shape and
    meat quality improvements, across treatments and compared to

    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.