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The Oyster Supply Chain

To explain the hatchery link in the oyster supply chain, we would like to introduce OSH, Inc.


Part 1 - Hatcheries

Oyster Seed Holdings (OSH) of Gwynn's Island Virginia was referred to us as a new seed source for an obvious reason: they are not growers. You see, many hatcheries are owned and operated by oyster grow-out businesses. It is important to understand that even though the seed created by hatcheries are mostly identical, there are some performance differences. For one reason or another, some oysters simply grow faster than others. These high-performers get to market sooner which turns a profit quicker and improves the operation's return on investment.


A Quick Watch:

Hatcheries like OSH play a critical role in the oyster industry. Watch a short YouTube primer on OSH called "Inside an Oyster Hatchery"


Think about it for a minute. If you are a large producer and you invested in the infrastructure and people to create your own seed, would you not keep the best and fastest growing stock for your own grow-out? And in turn, sell off your poorest performers to other growers? LOC was purchasing seed from large growers and we were curious about this, so last season we also purchased from OSH to compare. In short, there is no comparison. We are surprised how well they are growing!


Above, OSH’s Hatchery manager, Casey, gives Chris & Frank a tour of the facilities. Check out the massive amounts of algae (background) they must grow to keep the animals healthy through breeding and post fertilization. At top-right, adult "Henrys" (zoomed circle inset) are the genetic strain LOC is primarily working with this year.


As we consider again the oyster supply chain, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is actually the first link. VIMS provides the base genetic material embodied in mature brood stock oysters (branded as "Debbies", "Henrys" or other) to those interested in spawning these adults to produce larvae and creating marketable seed for the industry. While VIMS provides the genetic material, it is the hatchery and the rest of industry in the oyster supply chain that turns that genetic material into a viable product for market. Standby for Part II of this article where we explain the rest of the Oyster Supply Chain.

With the seed obtained by OSH performing better than expected, LOC’s biggest challenge with the 75,000 babies we purchased is managing their growth and providing them the best environment in which to survive to maturity. As inventory from prior years clears, we will be working to expand farm infrastructure to handle the rising adolescent population from our nursery area and ready them for spring and summer growth. Some will be ready for the fall season!

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