Ocean Smart Farm: Mechanizing Biofouling Control in Oyster Farming

Lead PI: Keith Butterfield

PI Email: keith@butterfieldshellfish.com

Project Team: Austin Donnelly, Butterfield Shellfish; Karen Butterfield, Butterfield Shellfish; Dana Morse, Maine Sea Grant; Chris Davis, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center; Aaron Pannell, FlipFarm

Abstract: The ultimate goal of this project is to completely transform oyster farming in the U.S. by implementing mechanical devices to control biofouling and harvesting. The project’s primary goal is to control biofouling without the use of back breaking physical labor. A new farming system eliminates the need for two people to lean over the edge of a boat and flip heavy floating cages in high risk conditions. By mechanizing the flipping process, there is no physical labor required. This project also helps address the need for developing a capable and diverse workforce by creating a better and safer job on the water. Furthermore, this system opens farming to individuals who have traditionally been excluded due to the physical requirements. Additionally, this project will facilitate two aspects of improving species diversity on oyster farms by growing a second species within the Smart Oyster Farm system and by calculating the time savings from mechanization which can be diverted to further species diversification or R&D. The project team will document through description and photos the types of labor required for each method and document any injuries or near misses that occur. As part of the project, they will also develop a training curriculum for existing and new entrant farmers. Butterfield Shellfish will furnish the site at their current lease as a demonstration and training location. In conjunction with partner institutions Maine Sea Grant and the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, Butterfield Shellfish will conduct on-site demonstrations and training for 5 years following the end of the grant period.

Project Dates: June 2020 – May 2022

Project Funding: Maine Aquaculture HUB