The growing process can vary almost completely from every bay, river, and farm. Each lease has their own unique characteristics, such as depth of water, the type of bottom, tidal flow and range, so oysters can be grown in a variety of ways.
Our oysters are grown using the OysterGro® system which is a floating rack method that allows the oysters to feed from the top 4”- 10” of water, which happens to be where the most nutrients are. Growing quality oysters using this method in Cascumpec Bay and Foxley River takes 3-4 years.
The Growth Cycle
Spat (A.K.A. Baby Oysters)
In July of every summer, when the water temperature is just right, the oysters will release larvae known as “spat” which the growers will try to catch using “spat collectors. This process is tricky… if you put them out too early, they will slime up and the larvae will not set to the collector, too late and you’ve missed them. It takes 2-3 weeks before you can even tell if you have a “good set” or not. By September, it is time to take on the physical task of knocking the spat off the collectors and placing them in OysterGro cages where they start their journey to becoming market-sized oysters.
Seed ( 1-2 Year Old Oysters)
The following spring and summer after the spat is collected, the main focus turns to maintaining the oyster seed. The seed is tumbled, culled, and placed in bags in each year of growth.
The key to having great looking market sized oysters is in the seed-culling process, where we pick out any odd-shaped oysters so that our bags and cages are full of quality oyster seed.
Mature Market-Size Oysters (3-4 Years in the Making)
The third full year our oysters is an exciting time, this is where we can see the fruits of our labor! Once again, in May and June of the 3rd year of growth, we do the tumbling process to encourage good growth among the oysters. When tumbled, the oyster’s defence mechanism against being agitated is to grow round, deep and thick shells, so this process is key to the quality of our product.
Starting in August, the oysters are ready to harvest. The bags are emptied into containers then taken to our floating shack where we grade the oysters by size and shape. After 3 full years of growth, typically about 75% of the oysters will be ready for market at either a cocktail, small, medium, or large size. The 25% that doesn’t reach these sizes are re-bagged for one more season.