All of our oysters spend their first few weeks in a hatchery as free-swimming larvae. We receive triploid larvae from a hatchery and introduce them to our down welling system. Our down weller consist of a silo fitted with a 200 micron screen with each silo receiving water flow introduced from the water surface. The screens are covered with ground up oyster shell known as micro cultch, to which larvae attach themselves and undergo metamorphosis into spat, or a newly settled oyster. We feed our down weller daily with a tetraselamis spp of algae that we grow in order to ensure a well-balanced diet.
After the larvae undergo metamorphosis in our downweller, they are transferred to a tank upweller. Here the water flow is reversed, pulling bay water with natural food through the tank, triggering the oysters to filter the algae out of the water as it passes over them. As the oysters grow, they are graded and sorted according to size in order to maintain size consistencies throughout the grow out process.
When the seed reaches ¼” in size, they can be transferred from the land based tank upweller to a floating upweller. This unit is capable of handling a larger quantity of seed and has the ability to increase water flow over the oysters. The silo and basket combination takes advantage of natural water pressure to promote water flow into a central trough where it is then removed with our custom pump.
Our farm has multiple 5 acre leases located in an area of the Chesapeake Bay known as Tar Bay. Tar Bay is located in the mid-bay where the natural algae present in the water gives our oyster a very complex, sweet flavor. The tidal flow is strong which helps promote feeding activity in our oysters.
Pulling-Tumbling-Sorting-Grading-Cleaning is all done on our boat, “Chesapeake Gold”. Our farm is laid out in a grid pattern and utilizes an XY cable system that attaches to the boat to allow movement from cage to cage and to keep the boat stationary during harvesting.
Hooper's Island Oyster Aquaculture Company has gone online with our custom made Post-Harvest Oyster Treatment System. HIOAC has worked with the University of Maryland for 2 years developing this technology.The research on oysters, water and UV systems has been extensive and testing has shown what we believe to be the safest raw oyster on the market. We have been approved by the State of Maryland to run all oysters through this system. Through thorough testing with various respectable biologists, we have shown that the system has a positive effect on the elimination of pathogens and microbes after weeks of testing. This system has many benefits besides the UV system. The bio-filter removes nitrogen from the oysters and the water, which keeps the system healthy. The fractionation chamber combines the proteins and waste expelled by the oysters and removes it from the system. The venturi injector adds dissolved oxygen to the water, which increases health and shelf-life of the oysters. The salinity level is kept constant in this closed system and creates a year round taste consistency demanded by oyster consumers. We feel this system creates a highly marketable oyster that is above and beyond all shellfish safety regulations.
We are the new generation of oyster farming and we hope you can see the care and planning that HIOAC has taken to ensure that you and your guests enjoy the best of the Chesapeake Bay. The journey has been long, but when you open one of our oysters you will see it was well worth it!