Non Technical Summary
Shellfish hatcheries represent the tip of the pyramid for aquaculture, where a large and diverse market for shellfish production is serviced by a comparative few hatcheries. This is true across the U.S. where twenty or so hatchery companies service thousands of shellfish companies. This scenario of large-scale hatchery production in relatively few places is precarious because failure of just one of these facilities can cause a significant deficit in seed production in the industry.The reason the industry has developed in this fashion is that, at least in part, shellfish hatcheries can be expensive to set up, requiring significant capital for procurement of suitable waterfront property, facility construction, facility equipment, and specialized staffing. After this significant investment, there is no guarantee of consistent production for stable return on investment due to numerous causes of culture failure including, but not limited to, harmful algal blooms, polluted upland runoff, pathogenic bacterial species, acidified water, and more. Furthermore, often these failures go un-explained making preventing them in the future or adjusting filtration difficult. This paradigm restricts the entrance of new companies into the seed production business and limits diversity and redundancy in the market.This proposal offers an alternative to the current status quo in U.S. shellfish hatchery production by the development of a highly efficient mobile oyster hatchery (MOH) capable of commercially relevant seed production. By creating a relatively inexpensive and simple to operate mobile shellfish hatchery, hatchery production could become more decentralized, effectively reducing product shortages through redundancy while allowing more participation in the seed market, promoting diversification.The ultimate goal of the concept we are developing with this project is to disrupt the norms of shellfish hatchery production by commercializing spatially diverse and agile hatchery capacity. Our precept is that hatchery technology has advanced, and will advance, sufficiently that we can begin to think out of the (stationary) box on shellfish seed production. We believe this paradigm shift has the ability to stabilize the seed market ensuring success of the shellfish aquaculture industry and therefore durable consumer access to the most sustainable animal protein source on the planet - farm raised shellfish.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The ultimate goal of the concept we are developing with this mobile hatchery (MOH) project is to disrupt the norms of shellfish hatchery production by commercializing spatially diverse and agile hatchery capacity. Our precept is that hatchery technology has advanced, and will advance, sufficiently that we can begin to think out of the (stationary) box on shellfish seed production.ObjectivesEvaluate the relative success of modular hatchery operation in three locations, two of which are testing distant shores.To date the prototype hatchery has had limited operation at significant distances from the OSH hatchery. It is important to assess the capability of full remote, independent operation of the MOH. Standard hatchery performance metrics, such as, survival of larval cultures, algae culture densities, seed setting rates, and seed survival throughout the season will all be used to evaluate performance. Identical data capture spreadsheets will be developed and utilized at each of the three locations so the same data are collected at each site and can be used for relative comparison between sites. Each MOH site is co-located with an existing hatchery which will also use the same data capture spreadsheets so these existing sites may be used to assess the relative performance of the MOH to a "traditional" and existing hatchery. Evaluate production costs and capacity of MOH.Critical to the economic feasibility of the modular hatchery concept is knowing its real-world production capacity and operational costs. Design capacity and actual capacity can differ greatly in hatcheries and confidence in production capacity will allow for estimation of gross revenue, which in conjunction with recorded operational costs, will be used for an economic feasibility analysis and creation of a business plan for MOH technology. Metrics collected will include overall larvae and seed production from the MOH by the week, month, and season as well as operational metrics, such as, utilities, supplies, and labor. These data will allow for cost-volume-profit and return on investment analysis.
Overall strategy for deploymentThree sites, one for each MOH, have been selected to evaluate operational success. Although the principal use of the MOH technology is meant to be a stand-alone, fully integrated and remotely located unit, for the sake of our Phase II project, we have deliberately targeted sites that have an incumbent hatchery. This decision was made in order to separate the performance of the trailer from the vagaries of environmental variability at a site. In a sense, the incumbent hatchery is an ersatz control that will allow comparisons that will help guide operations in the MOH. The three sites will be the home site of Oyster Seed Holdings, in Virginia, the University of Georgia Shellfish Research Laboratory in Georgia, and the University of Florida Coastal and Marine Laboratory in Florida.Fabrication of Mobile Hatchery 3.0Three MOH facilities are needed for this project. One of these, the MOH prototype (MOH1), will be refurbished to match exactly the systems and capacity of two new MOH facilities. Two 53' refrigerated trailers will be sourced to serve as the platform for MOH2 and MOH3. After a fabricator has made necessary modifications and HVAC systems are complete OSH staff will construct and install the algae, larvae, and seed culture systems.Training of MOH techniciansOne of the principal challenges of commercializing the MOH technology in the future will be obtaining and training competent operators. No matter how elegant these are designed, the operator is the conductor of a symphony of several associated hatchery skills. For this proposal, we are trying to assure that "operator" is not a variable, and that is part of the reason we have partnered up with academic sites (see below) that have existing hatcheries: access to qualified technicians will be convenient.For this project, a technician will be hired to operate the MOH facility at the Georgia and Florida sites. These technical people have already been identified. For the Virginia site adjacent to OSH, the operator will be our Innovative Technology Manager (ITM), a permanent position partially funded by grant funds to OSH. To standardize husbandry techniques and knowledge base, OSH will provide a week-long training session to be completed in early January at the OSH main hatchery in MOH1, where it will be deployed in conjunction with the OSH hatchery for the duration of the project. MOH2 and 3 will be located near OSH as well, but non-operational during the training.Operational details of MOH - the 'experiment'A season in the life of the MOH -The season of the MOH, like any shellfish hatchery, starts out ramping up algae culture. This takes about 3-4 weeks and will begin each season after the first of the year. The first animals to benefit from the algae production system are the brood stock. These adult oysters that will yield their gametes throughout the season are the foundation of a hatchery season. The MOH is capable of holding sufficient early season broodstock for 4-6 spawns. Once conditioned, a new spawn will be performed each week until all animals in the conditioning system have been utilized. When early season brood stock are expended, reliance shifts to brood stock obtained from the surrounding area that have naturally ripened on their own. These will be brought into the system and "help-back" for subsequent spawning through the remainder of the season. A spawning run in the life of the MOH - New larvae cultures will be started each week in the MOH with the first 6 days taking place in static culture tanks after which larvae will be transferred to flow through larvae tanks for the remainder of the larvae culture period. Tanks are drained and larvae inspected every other day and prepared a fresh diet of micro algae daily. Pediveligers are "harvested" from the larvae culture based on size and exhibition of settlement behavior that indicates readiness to metamorphose. These eyed larvae are then removed from culture will be transitioned to the TCS system (the novel setting system developed in phase 1). Once set and removed from TCS, the osyters, now termed seed, are then transferred to the bottle nursery system for continued growth until the seed are large enough to be moved to an outside, raw water nursery for further growth.A day in the life of the MOH -Shellfish hatcheries are made or broken by husbandry and attention to detail. The MOH is no different and will require competent, attentive staff to provide exceptional husbandry to realize the full potential. Below is offered some insight on what a typical day might look like for such staff. The first part of the day is dedicated to assessment. Health assessments of any larvae or seed currently in culture are performed to help inform how those animals will be treated that day. Equipment and systems are assessed for any issues or breakdowns that could affect operation. Once complete the work for the day can begin. Avoiding the transfers of pathogens and bacteria throughout the hatchery dictates the order of daily operations, proceeding from the most 'sterile' to the least 'sterile:' algae work, larvae work, seed work, brood stock work, filter changes, system maintenance. Data capture will take place on a tablet mostly in real time throughout the workday. PD Congrove will review data dailyBefore leaving for the day, all flow through systems are checked again to ensure appropriate seawater and feed flow rates.Levels of "replication"The real-world trials of the MOH system in remote sites comprise our "experiment." Our "reagents" are parts to build the units and supplies for hatchery operation. It is impossible to have "replicate" MOHs on site to look for within-site variance in performance, but there are several levels of replication and repeat trials that are built into the entirety of the project.First, we have three sites to gauge the geographical variance in performance among MOHs. Within site effects can be estimated because of the multiple spawning runs, which of course have the co-variance of environmental effects. To some degree, that co-variance can be traced because of the presence of the incumbent hatchery such that we may ascribe performance as a common feature or singular to one or the other of the hatcheries. Finally, we have a rough measure of temporal variance, not only within a year, but between the two years of the project.Metrics of successThe metrics of success for this hatchery project are exactly those used in commercial hatcheries everywhere. These metrics will be acquired by data capture and compiled at the end of each season.Algae culture- algae density by species- culture longevityLarvae culture- survival (egg to day 2, day 2 to day 6, day 6 to pediveliger)- culture duration (egg to complete harvest)- % harvested as pediveligersSetting success- set rate (pediveliger to first seed count)- setting duration (number of sets required to use all pediveligers)Man-hours-recorded dailyCosts- total man hours/ season- electricity estimates- propane use- consumables - exigent spendingEconomic AnalysisIn order to asses the economic feasibility of the MOH a simple economic analysis will be performed by plugging in data captured in the "metrics of success" above. Using these data as well as market prices for each site specific state, a cost-volume- profit analysis will be performed. The result of this analysis will determine the level of production required to be profitable given the associated operational costs of the MOH and market dynamics of that state. Of particular interest in the case of the MOH is how profitability changes with sales volume and with sales price (which can vary state to state). In addition to the above, a return on investment analysis will be performed to assess the impact of the capital investment required to construct a MOH.