The nursery is exactly what it sounds like: a protected place where baby oysters go to grow for the first year of their lives.
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Our nursery system is located in Island Pond, an 35 acre brackish salt pond on Fishers Island. The seed is initially placed in a set of submerged containers known as a floating upwelling system (or FLUPSY). We developed a custom-built, electric motor powered system that flows large volumes of water through thick beds of seed oysters, which helps push algae from the pond into the hungry mouths of our young oysters.
Just before the start of spring, we begin to transfer new oyster spat from the hatchery into the FLUPSY system.
Groomed to be Great
The small oysters are cleaned and sorted on a weekly basis to ensure that they're healthy and happy. Although the oysters are all about the same age, some tend to grow faster, and others slower, which causes some fluctuations in size. To ensure that every oyster is given the best condition for growth, we try to keep oysters of the same size in the same silos. When the oysters attain a size of about 1/2", which can happen in about three weeks at the height of the growing season, they are large enough to be introduced into our pearl net culture system.
What are Pearl Nets?
Pearl Nets are pyramid-shaped bags strung on a long line and suspended just below the water surface. They are traditionally used for scallop culture, but we've decided to adapt them for oysters.
A specific number of oysters are stocked into each pearl net and then hung from longlines. These nets must be handled and cleaned every 3-4 weeks during the growing season which lasts from about April until November. Initially, a million oysters will fit into just a few cups. By the end of the growing season, those few cups can become more than 750 bushels of large seed.
First Hibernate, then Graduate
We keep the oysters in the pond through the winter. The following spring, when the oysters are 1-2", they are sorted by size. Most are sold to other farms. We keep a portion which are redistributed into a different, larger net, called a Lantern Net, that is used for final growout.