The aim of this project is to work with Georgia watermen and Georgia restaurants to develop sustainable methods of growing single oysters in order to increase farmed oyster production, and to create a larger market for is product in Georgia restaurants.
Oyster harvests have been present in Georgia since pre-Columbian times, and commercial harvest since the colonial era. However, because of its historical presence, Georgia’s oyster industry is built upon wild harvest strategies- strategies where clustered oysters (oysters that grow in clumps) are harvested by hand, which is not cost effective. In 2013, Georgia produced 23,998 pounds of oyster meats, while In 2014 the US harvested 34.1 million pounds (NMFS 2015) of oyster meat. Right now, the oyster industry within Georgia is unequipped to commercially compete with the present day single oyster market based on the wild harvesting methods that Georgia’s oyster farmers use now. Instead, we hope to create and develop a single oyster aquaculture that can help to expand and increase the viability of the Georgia oyster market.
This project uses cages to hold oysters in the intertidal and subtidal zones to find the best single oyster growth method. In this way, oyster aquaculture in Georgia can emerge to become both profitable and sustainable, as oyster farms can benefit water quality and well as provide refuge for other sea life. In addition to development of cultivation methods, this project seeks to expand the market in which Georgia oyster farmers can sell their oysters. There is already a high demand for high-quality single oysters on the half-shell. We intend to make use of the popularity of the “farm-to-table” movement to grow the demand for Georgia’s oysters. The oysters sold from Georgia can be accompanied by information on both the harvest location and the farmer, which would appeal to consumers that are curious about local foods and the communities in which they originate from.
In order to properly distribute these oysters, it is important for these local watermen have access to market. However, oyster farmers are required to have a dealer’s license to sell and ship products to end-users. We are working to determine the effectiveness and safety of novel delivery methods, such as the use of Federal Express and the United Parcel Service to transport oysters directly to restaurants. Restaurants will be surveyed about their interest in purchasing locally grown Georgia oysters, supply and delivery requirements, and their interest in receiving oysters through novel delivery methods such as Federal Express or United Parcel Service.
This project is led by University of Georgia with Emory University and Georgia Southern University participation. Principle investigators is Thomas Bliss (University of Georgia), and Co-Principal Investigators are: Mark Risse (University of Georgia), Tracy Yandle (Emory University), Bryan Fluech (University of Georgia), Kent Wolf (University of Georgia), and Jennifer Sweeney Tookes (Georgia Southern University).
Funding provided by the US Department of Agriculture through the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) Program, Grant #20163864025382.