US (ME): Aquaponic oyster farming is coming ashore for the first time

It could take millions of years for oysters to evolve to live out of the Gulf of Maine waters — assuming they are naturally selected to make the move. But one Maine aquaponics farmer wants to bring the mollusks onto dry land for at least part of their life cycle.

Matt Nixon, owner of Muddy River Farm Aquaponics in Topsham, outlined his plans and preliminary work in bringing juvenile oysters, known as spats, to adulthood in land-based tanks he calls oyster pods.

He presented his oyster growing plans during an online meeting hosted by E2Tech, a Maine-based energy, environmental, clean technology, and economic development organization. Nixon is working with composite researchers at the University of Maine and the Maine Technology Institute to use 3D printers to create the pods out of a polymer and use scrap wood for the flooring.

The pods and associated feeding, temperature, and water quality controls will allow Nixon to grow the oysters faster than they ever could naturally in the Gulf of Maine. It will also remove the bivalves from an environment increasingly at risk due to toxic algae blooms, fluctuating temperatures in the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine, and competing uses from private landowners.

“I started this company to try to find sustainable solutions to climate change, even though we may be too late to reverse some,” Nixon said. “I want to slow and blunt the changes as best we can, which is what growing oysters is all about.”

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