Subtidal oyster aquaculture: Creating safe and efficient production techniques through sustainable innovations

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $13,222.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Dr. Daniel Ward
Ward Aquafarms, LLC


  • Animals: shellfish


  • Animal Production: general animal production

    Proposal summary:

    The rapidly expanding oyster aquaculture industry in the Northeast requires that farmers move farther out from intertidal areas, and into the deeper subtidal waters. In Falmouth, all new leases (and 5 out of the current 6 leases) are located in subtidal waters. This requires either great investment to buy a boat capable of lifting the heavy cages and oysters out of the water, or utilizing SCUBA to bring the oysters to the surface. Both of these methods can be both inefficient, expensive, labor intensive, as well as dangerous. This project describes a way to bring cages to the surface using air to lift the cages instead of using SCUBA or a hauler to drag them out of the water. Using air to lift the cages is safer and less labor intensive than SCUBA, and less expensive than using a larger boat and getting a mooring. Other than the added material costs to build the cages, the only additional equipment a farmer would need is an air compressor and tank to be able to work their farm in a safer and more efficient method. Subtidal aquaculture shellfish farmers also need a method to keep their small juvenile oysters predator free, and supplied with food similar to the “upweller” technique utilized by inshore farmers. Through a novel technique utilizing the same principle, farmers can keep their immature shellfish free from predators while they grow quickly, increase the amount of food passing by the juvenile oysters, while complying to current regulations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Implement a new method of raising oysters to the surface on a subtidal aquaculture farm, thereby improving farmer safety and reducing economic barriers to entry in the shellfish industry.

    2. Integrate a novel technique of protecting juvenile oysters while increasing food density on the bottom of a subtidal aquaculture lease, similar to the approach of a floating upweller.

    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.