top of page

Oyster Farming Methods & Equipment Manufacturers

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”  - Jonathan Swift


Oyster Farming

Oysters were once a street food, served alongside a good bottle of beer or a shot of vodka, adding depth to the raw, fleshy, and briny delight. Today, over 90% of these beautiful creatures are farmed just offshore in bags and racks, filtering tidal waters, and farmers are using specific techniques to enhance cup size, meatiness, texture, and salt flavors. 


Depending on where you get your oysters from, the oyster flavor wheel begins with the Nose Upfront, Body, and Finish. Yes, a flavor wheel, much like wine tasting. Once cultures are ready for the farm, producers choose their growing methods, type of lease with the local municipality, support from the Extension offices, gear manufacturers, and techniques to produce some beautifully grown oysters - adding layers of flavor and depth to an already cultural treasure.  Oysters adapt to the flora and fauna, developing characteristics - the geography shapes the oyster’s flavor profiles, from water and salt to sweet and vegetation. Today, organizations offer a curriculum on a beginner’s guide to oysters. 


Oyster Farming Methods

Common Types of Oyster Farming Methods

Bed Grown - Bed Grown oyster farming begins with a “mother shell’, where a three-week-old seed is set on the ocean floor near the shore. Once they reach harvest-ability, usually 18-24 months of growing time, they are removed with a net dredged and shipped to the docks for processing. 


Beach or Bottom Culture - is a traditional farming method designed to submerge the bag. 

oysters atop the rocks and sandy bottoms. Although in a bag, the oysters are grown in a wild ecosystem, fighting tides and storms, fostering a heartier flesh and briny flavor profile. 

 

Off-Bottom Culture - is a method where the oyster seed is bagged or placed in a basket suspended one to two meters above the ocean floor. The oysters can be grown in a variety of equipment. Each equipment design is meant for a certain flora and fauna, adapting to the environment. 


Floating Bag or Suspended Culture - is an off-bottom water culture farming method used for scale - helping to grow oysters in stages.  The bags are buoyed by hollow floats, allowing the producer to fill them and sink them if necessary. It ensures good water flow in the tidal waters. The ease of maintenance and system processing allows for lower labor costs and farming scalability.  


Rack and Bag Bottom Cages - are set up using the steel rebar rack welded into a platform, allowing the bags to be affixed and laid across the rebar - preventing predators. The method is known to help farmers grow oysters with a deeper cup and briny flavor profile. 


Suspended Cages - is a method used in deeper tidal waters. Oysters are placed in baskets or bags suspended in floats along lines - hanging - ebbing, and flowing throughout the tides. The oysters rise and fall with the tidal shift.  Protecting them from the sand, mud, and silt. 


Bottom Cages - are a solution to suspend the bagged oysters off the bottom in a protective system, supported by three welded 4x4 metal skids. 


Surface or Floating - is a suspension method of farming - where oysters are periodically tumbled to strengthen the shell and depth of the oyster's meat. 


Long Line - was traditionally set up on “Cultches” or a bundle of oyster shells embedded to a long line.  Farmers would attach oyster culture to the “Cultches” and foster growth in deeper tidal waters. Longline culture is now run with flexible bags floating along something that looks like a clothesline, running plastic baskets with hook-like carabiners.  Allowing the baskets to ebb and flow - freestanding with the help of pilings and PVC.


Oyster Farm

Oyster Gear Manufacturers and Harvesting Equipment 

Growing systems help shape the health and flavor profiles of the culture. Gear and systems are designed to create a better product, farming efficiency, scale, and healthy oyster culture. Most manufacturers and designers started by fashioning PVC together, harnessing technology to withstand climate change, weather, and farming techniques. The following manufacturers have created non-toxic systems for our tidal waters, are ISO certified, and are subject matter experts to help guide the farmers on set-up and management.  


Oyster Gear

FlipFarm - a New Zealand-based manufacturer, Marlborough Oysters Limited - designed 

FlipFarm is a new and innovative oyster-growing system designed and operated by Marlborough Oysters Limited in New Zealand. Aaron Pannell designed and operates the system.  Built with a lead handling line and buoy harness.  The lines become the system's backbone, suspending 345’ of line across the oyster farm.  Each basket is built with an aluminum tube-shaped axle, where the line is threaded through, and an empty plastic float is affixed. Defouling is done by running a Helix Flipper tethered to the side of the oyster boat. 


Hoopers Island Oyster Co. - is a Maryland-based oyster farm with a long history of investing time and money into evaluating oyster farming and processing equipment. Over the years, they designed a farm-to-harvest model, integrating efficiencies, they decided to sell “Best of Breed” and proprietary equipment to the oyster farming community. Selling products like Bishop Aquatic Technologies - The Floating Upweller System or Hexcyl Systems basket technology to seed shakers and sorters. The equipment evens stock distribution, which increases productivity and reduces mortality.  


Intermas - just north of Barcelona, Spain, the Intermas group has designed oyster farming solutions on long lines and suspended basket technologies. Their Floating Bag System is a 4-season solution that floats the bags with buoys during the Spring and Summer Months; once the season turns to winter, the bags and lines can be submerged to keep the culture on the sea floor. 


Ketcham Supply Company - based out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. They own a patented solution, Flow N Grow™ 4 Bay Floating Cage. It is a 66-liter flotation system, coupled with mesh grow bags and tethers to lines attached to pilings. They sell Lantern Nets, PVC Sliding Bag enclosures, and flotation systems. 


OysterGro - just off Prince Edward Island, is the patented and trademarked OysterGro Corp. designed to sustain the cold and tumultuous waters of Northeastern Canada. The bags are suspended in cages, flipped at a feeding depth of 1 foot, and it is stable enough to be flipped over, exposing the shellfish for de-fouling. In addition, the buoys can be filled with water to submerge and avert sea ice and severe weather. 


SEAPA - is an Australian-based oyster farming equipment manufacturer and consultant. Their equipment has been tested for anti-migration and basket detaching. They have designed the REVO - Surface Drying System, The GTX Basket, and The SEAPA Spat Sock - which can hold oyster culture down to 2mm in size.  


Zapco Aquaculture  - was founded in 2009 in Australia - working to solve equipment and operational issues in oyster farming. They only use food-grade, non-toxic UV-stabilized plastics. Their patented Flip ‘N’ Grow 6 Bag Cage System maximizes production and can be tethered and towed. into shore for maintenance, the floats are built with a valve system - for quick release.


Long lines, floating systems, subtidal equipment, and fixed systems efficiently raise and lower stock with lower labor costs and enhance shell shape while securing the oyster infrastructure in open waters, built on multiple formats to accommodate various environmental needs. When learning about the best solutions, review case studies through The Agricultural Extension Offices and your local Sea Grant chapter.



Oyster Farms







251 views0 comments

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page