According to the State of Connecticut, Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm (NBSF) was officially formed on December 1st, 2014. However, the conceptualization of our Farm began in 2013 and came to fruition in April of 2016. Between 2013 and 2016, we researched growing methods, applied from leases, permits, amassed experience, sought knowledge and finally collected the necessary materials needed to form a fully functional aquaculture farm. All this was completed with the support of my family, my wife Marie and who could forget our "ferocious lion hunting Rhodesian Ridgeback" Magnolia!
From the beginning, two basic principles, found at the core of Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, drove this venture forward. These principles have never been nor will ever be compromised, despite better judgment and suggestions from others. First, Niantic was the only place consider to grow our shellfish. With the competing uses of the waterways to the risky SE exposure of our final grow out site in the bay, some suggested looking to other growing areas. I refused. Possibly against my better judgment, NBSF stuck it out and bet it all on Niantic.
Why? The answer, there is more to farming than mitigating risk and your bottom line, there is a certain way of life. We believe that giving back not only to the environment but also to the community is a noble goal way of living. At the very core of shellfish aquaculture is the fact that it is the most efficient protein production method in the world. Not only do the shellfish not need to be fed, they clean the water allowing for sunlight penetration which, in turn, allows for benthic growth and photosynthesis thus establishing the essentials to an effective circle of life.
Niantic not only deserves to have clean waters but it also deserves bio-diversity. By deploying our gear, which holds our shellfish, we create safe havens for many invertebrates, finfish, and other aquatic guests. The gear which we deploy has been shown to provide great habitat for flat fish, specifically the Winter Flounder which has been slowly disappearing from the Bay. With a low carbon footprint and providing many benefits to the local Niantic eco-system, NBSF can say that the environment has a net gain as does the community as a whole. Due to my love and respect for the waters of Niantic, I wanted my blood, sweat, and tears to benefit the very water which initiated my passion. This is why I refused to be in any other body of water; I designed NBSF to give back and provide opportunities to the community which otherwise would have never existed. See "Doing Our Part"
Secondly, location, location, location. There is no better location in CT to grow such a Pristine Product. It just so happens that Niantic Bay had one of the very few areas classified by the State as "Approved" (the best water quality status) in the entire Eastern Long Island Sound. Our site is exposed to a twenty-one-mile fetch (the tip of Long Island to the Niantic shores), this the exposure comes with inherent risks but also rewards including the cool, rejuvenating off-shore waters of the Atlantic Ocean as well as constant wave action which allows our oyster to obtain a firm deep cupped shell. This calculated but still precarious position affords for a degree of water flow that is unprecedented compared to many other regional farms.
Furthermore, when considering a location, one of the best indications of productiveness is the history of said area. Niantic is known for producing some of the most delicious and satisfying shellfish in the United States. Ask any shellfisher on the river and they will tell you they come from all around to Niantic because the trip is worth it. Continue to ask around and you will learn that the Niantic Bay Scallop was the pinnacle of scallops around the world until it was fished out. Lastly, looking at the sheer sales numbers of shellfishing permits by the local commission, when compared to other CT commissions, one will begin to notice that something truly special happens in these waters.
We began this farm on two basic concepts: 1) Partner with nature and the community to form a better more sustainable future and 2) Grow the best possible product exemplified and backed by our Pristine Product Promise. These will concepts will never be compromised.
After the leasing and permitting processes are completed, a grueling eighteen-month process, the infrastructure you are going to use to farm the water must be established.
NBSF has a sixty-two-acre lease in Niantic Bay in which seven acres are approved for Type II aquaculture (aquaculture that deploys structures on the ocean floor). NBSF uses bottom trays as a means to grow out its product. These "cages" are tethered to a 300' sinking long line which is anchored at either end with helix anchors. This method ensures that no gear will be lost during storms, wash up on shore, or cause damage to public property all while sitting at least six feet below to water surface and unseen to the human eye. Each corner of the current acreage in use is marked with DEEP required markers to inform boaters of the submerged gear.
In order to tend cages that can reach over 400 pounds, we completely rebuilt a 1983 21' privateer center console with a custom davit to handle our gear. The pride and joy of NBSF's fleet is the "Shell-Plex". This forty-nine-foot boat is the command center of the operation. Used to sort, tumble, dry, cull, and ship oysters, this operation would not be possible without this boat. Every system we use was custom designed and built by NBSF to specifically meet our high standard while allowing us to have complete control over our system so we can grow the oysters we want to grow- the best!