Innovative Aquaculture Techniques
We innovated raft cultivation in Maine nearly 20 years ago, using rafts because they grow lots of mussels in a small area and you can protect the crop from Eider ducks (6 pound sea ducks), which prefer mussels and can eat their body weight per day! After 5 years of research and development with support from USDA-NIFA and the Maine Technology Institute, we have developed a patent pending 40-ton submersible raft that eliminates the risk of costly storm damage and mussel drop-off from the ropes. This allows us to farm the pristine semi-exposed open bays of Maine without conflicts with other uses of the water, minimal visual impacts, ideal growing environments for the mussels, and no impact of storms or drift ice. We have also performed extensive testing of scale models and raft components, done computer models of water flow around and through the rafts, and optimized the locations and design of the rafts to provide the best possible environment for mussel growth and meat yield. Our first crop from the modular passive submersible raft has arrived in the fall of 2015!
Processing at Sea
We innovated processing at sea by declumping, debyssing, grading, purging, packing and icing mussels immediately after removal from the ropes. The mussels are purged in pristine seawater prior to bagging so they can recover from processing, eliminate any grit that might be present, and maintain the water temperature they just came out of. This process guarantees a fresh mussel with a long shelf life year round, whether it is a warm summer day or below freezing, and any small mussel recovered from the ropes are seeded back on the ropes for another day.
Model of raft motion under simulated waves (Aqua-Fe, UNH)
Mussel rope from submersible raft (Heather Perry Photography)