The second round of Alternative Oyster Culture (AOC) grants, totaling $465,000, have been announced.
Thirteen grants were awarded to:
- Ryan Anderson, for a grow-out farm
- Albert Besson, dba Barataria Beauties Oyster Company, for a grow-out farm
- Michael “Laine” Fontenot, Gulf of Mexico Tuna Company, for a grow-out farm
- Khai Dang, for a grow-out farm
- Chad Guidry, dba Big Jim’s Seafood, for a grow-out farm
- Jason Pitre, dba Bayou Rosa Oyster Farm, for a grow-out farm
- George “Nick” Waguespack, for a grow-out farm
- Percy Dardar, dba World’s Finest Oysters, for a nursery farm and grow-out farm
- Tony Tesvich, dba TJT, LLC, for a nursery farm and grow-out farm
- Nathan Herring, dba Bright Side Oyster Farm, for a nursery farm
- Steve Pollock, dba Triple N Oyster Farm, for a nursery farm
Funding for the grant program, which is administered by Louisiana Sea Grant and awarded by the Iberia Development Foundation (IDF), comes from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).
This second round of competitive funding was open to all Louisiana licensed oyster fishers. Individuals had to apply for each type of grant, and each was independently assessed in the award process with no guarantee that success in one category meant success in another. Award amounts were $15,000 per nursery farm and $45,000 per grow-out farm.
“Awardees from this round of funding include AOC farmers both experienced and new to cage culture and nursery farms,” said Wood Oglesby, AOC Program outreach coordinator. “It’s exciting to see the impact of these grants, as we watch our first set of growers start to harvest and sell cultured oysters and provide seed from their nurseries. We expect more industry growth as these second-round recipients come online—meeting our goal to enhance and expand AOC operations across the state.”
Grant recipients were chosen by an independent selection committee made up of impartial industry experts, who evaluated each on a competitive scale based on five key elements and their interview. The committee reviewed the applicants’ personal qualifications and experience, the AOC site location as it influences the biological and physiological needs of the oyster and the ability to work and harvest without influences of public health concerns. Additionally, the committee was able to evaluate an applicant’s personal thoughts on what AOC means to them and how prepared they are to start a business, and any outside financial efforts they may be pursuing to bolster their business through grants.
Over a three-year period, $1.8 million in grants will be available to AOC operators to acquire equipment and supplies to enhance existing businesses or establish new AOC businesses. That includes AOC seed nurseries and grow-out facilities, hatcheries and areas legally designated as AOC Management Units (parks) that contain multiple farms in one location. Grant recipients are reimbursed for their purchases, up to the total amount of his or her grant.
AOC is when oysters are grown in floating cages or in bottom-placed cages attached to pylons. This method allows the cages to be raised and lowered to protect oysters from predators, fouling and the burial effects of disasters like hurricanes.
“Louisiana’s oyster industry has a long and distinguished history, all built on the exceptional growing conditions found in our coastal marshes,” said Rusty Gaudé, marine extension agent with Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter. “These conditions allow for the AOC participants to optimize oyster growth by placing the fate of the shellfish in locations which not only produce a near-perfect product, but do it faster than almost anywhere else in the nation.”
Visit www.laseafoodfuture.com/aoc to stay informed about further grant opportunities.
The Iberia Development Foundation (IDF) was founded in 2011 as a 501c3 non-profit foundation to perform community and economic development activities within Iberia Parish. They provide assistance to businesses and individuals to develop and enhance best business practices, as well as offer programs and assistance pertaining to disaster preparedness and recovery.
Since its establishment in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant (www.laseagrant.org) has worked to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach programs critical to the cultural, economic and environmental health of Louisiana’s coastal zone. Louisiana Sea Grant, based at LSU, is part of the National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 university-based programs in each of the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico.