- Animals: shellfish
- Animal Production: aquaculture
Small oyster farms face unique challenges when it comes to labor demands and costs. Often there is more work than staff can handle and few equipment options to increase productivity and efficiency. Therefore, the objective of this project is to design, construct, and evaluate a pontoon boat based “mobile farming unit” for use on a small subtidal “off-bottom” shellfish aquaculture farm. The proposed unit will assist farmers in crop production, gear positioning and maintenance, harvesting, culling and packaging. Like many small aquaculture farms, we are trying to make advancements towards a more sustainable business and believe that labor and time saving tools are key in making that step. Our aim is to show small-scale aquaculture farmers a cost-effective means of boosting efficiency for higher quality crop yields in faster time while reducing the physical strain. This idea was inspired by discussions with other small farm operations and we plan on a rigorous program of outreach to gather more information and to disseminate our results. In addition, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agent Doug Zemeckis and various directors involved with the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association will be engaged for their knowledge and experience in Northeast aquaculture.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project seeks to show small-scale oyster farmers the benefits of using a pontoon boat based mobile farming unit to manage husbandry and equipment maintenance with a limited farm workforce. This unit will enable small farms like ourselves to handle large amounts of husbandry work and farm maintenance in any area of the farm with the ability to move it easily. The unit in this project will have the added assistance of cranes and haulers so heavy oyster containing equipment can be tended to quickly then returned to the water to grow. This is a solution to allow farmers to work their farms more productively, save them physical strain and be financially viable for a typical small oyster farm of 1-10 employees. Beyond building and demonstrating the use of this tool, the secondary objective will be to document and quantify its potential cost and labor savings in a small farm setting.