NIC partners with Rising Tide Shellfish on new oyster grow-out system

NIC Engineering student Johnny Marshall lowers a prototype oyster grow-out system into the ocean for testing in Campbell River.

NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) is collaborating with Rising Tide Shellfish, a shellfish aquaculture company based on Cortes Island, to build and test an innovative grow-out system for Pacific oysters.

The project is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Pacific oysters are the most commercially important farmed shellfish in BC. In recent years, warming ocean temperatures seem to play a factor in increased oyster mortality across the BC shellfish aquaculture sector, and there is an immediate need for new farming methods that improve oyster survival in the face of changing ocean conditions.

Rising Tide Shellfish (RTS) has created an innovative system for raising Pacific oysters. It requires less labour and improves oyster performance compared to standard grow-out trays. In a preliminary trial at RTS, oysters in the new system had very low mortality, whereas the same batch of oysters in standard oyster trays experienced high mortality.

“We think it's important to come up with solutions to the problems we're facing in shellfish productions because of climate change,” said Erik Lyon, founder and CEO of Rising Tide Shellfish (RTS). “Not only could this new grow-out system improve RTS’s production efficiency, but it could have far-reaching opportunities throughout the BC shellfish aquaculture sector. We approached NIC to work with us on this next step because of its history of innovation and its work in aquaculture in BC.”

Lyon and RTS will work directly with NIC faculty Scott McGregor and Allison Byrne and NIC students to construct a more refined prototype and formally test the new system against standard oyster trays by measuring oyster growth and survival.

Naomi Tabata, CARTI Manager at NIC sees many benefits of supporting local shellfish growers through applied research.

“We are really excited about this collaboration with RTS,” said Tabata. “Shellfish aquaculture is such an important part of our North Island communities, and to Canada’s sustainable food production, but growers are facing some major production challenges. This project will help address some of these challenges by combining our expertise at the college with that of RTS.”

The research began in October 2020 and will take approximately six months. Once complete, RTS plans to use the new grow-out system design in their operations and scale up production of the new system for widespread use on their farm and for use by other growers

For more information on CARTI projects, or to learn about working with CARTI on applied research projects, please visit www.nic.bc.ca/research.

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