MD - These Maryland Companies Have Teamed up to Help Grow Oysters in Deeper Water — With the Help of Solar Energy
Two Maryland companies have teamed up to design a solar-powered barge that could bring oyster farming into deeper parts of the Chesapeake Bay, improving the estuary’s oyster output and perhaps easing conflicts with watermen and waterfront landowners.
The two companies — Maritime Applied Physics Corp. and the EcoLogix Group — are developing a rig mounted with solar panels that holds oysters in vertical columns up to 20 feet deep. Oysters typically grow in cages or reefs resting on the bottom of shallow water or in cages floating at the surface, so this technology would allow oyster growers to better take advantage of deeper waters.
The companies, under the aegis Solar Oysters, are crafting prototypes in hopes of setting up a demonstration oyster farm in the coming year to attract investment for their design. The initial models have been small, but the concept calls for much larger barges floating in the Chesapeake in the years ahead, which experts say could have a big effect on the aquaculture industry.
The barges would automate many steps of the oyster farming operation. With energy from the sun’s rays, the floating apparatus can rotate growing oysters to the surface and clean the cages, simplifying the work of aquaculture laborers, said Mark Rice, president of Baltimore-based Maritime Applied Physics and principal of Solar Oysters.
“There was not a lot of automation in raising oysters in Chesapeake Bay. There’s a lot of back breaking work that is often done in water and during winter months. And our hope was that we could make that work easier,” Rice said.