Optimization and Demonstration of Field Nursery Practices for Oyster Seed Cultivation in the Delaware Bay, NJ

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,240.00
Projected End Date: 02/29/2020
Grant Recipient: Sweet Amalia Oyster Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Lisa Calvo
Sweet Amalia Oyster Farm


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: aquaculture
  • Crop Production: aquaculture
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: risk management
  • Pest Management: biological control

    Proposal summary:

    A critical bottleneck to the growth and development of the shellfish aquaculture industry in New Jersey, and likewise in the mid-Atlantic region, is the limitation of hatchery and nursery capacity for seed production. In New Jersey, demand for oyster seed has well exceeded the production capacity of the State’s sole oyster hatchery. In order to meet the increasing demand for seed, the facility has limited production and sales to seed less < 3 mm in size, shifting the nursery phase of production to oyster farmers. Nursery production typically relies on access to waterfront properties where upweller or raceway systems can be operated. However, few growers are fortunate enough to have access to appropriate nursery land-based sites and must nursery the seed in the field where environmental control is not possible and many challenges persist. Little attention has been paid to optimize strategies for the field nursery of very small oyster seed. This project will evaluate and demonstrate innovative field nursery strategies and optimize seed stocking and handling regimes to maximize seed performance at an intertidal field nursery located in the southern Delaware Bay, NJ. Seed performance metrics will include survival, size, fan- and cup-shape, volume, hinge turning, and fouling. The development of the best field nursery practices for the Delaware Bay will enable oyster farmers to reduce farm risks and enhance product quality and production, and hence farm profitability.

    The results of this project will be presented to other growers and shellfish scientists and extension specialists via several outreach opportunities. First, at the local level we will share the results a Shellfish Growers Forum, an education series offered by the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory. The Forum provides the opportunity for shellfish growers to share and receive information with one another and from others including research scientists, business specialists, and government agents. Second, the results will be presented more regionally to shellfish growers and others in the Northeast region at the Milford Aquaculture Seminar. This seminar is popular among industry, academic, and government sectors that are interested in aquaculture topics.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this effort is to develop new technologies to maximize seed performance at an intertidal field nursery. The project will examine four key production questions:

    1. What type of container promotes the best seed performance?
    2. Is it better to deploy the seed container off- bottom or at the surface of the water column?
    3. Is better seed performance achieved at high stocking density or low stocking density?
    4. Which combination of container type, container placement, and stocking density promotes the best seed performance with the least cost?

    The development of best field nursery practices for the Delaware Bay will enable Sweet Amalia Oyster Farm and other oyster farms that do not have land or shore-based nurseries to reduce farm risks and enhance product quality and production, and hence farm profitability. Although practices will be developed for the very challenging conditions characteristic of the near shore intertidal Delaware Bay environment, these results will be relevant to growers throughout the mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. where high-energy conditions exist. Ultimately, identification of successful field nursery strategies will increase farm profits by reducing mortality, reducing seed costs, and enhancing product quality.

    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.