Although we harvest all year round at Island Creek, November signals the start of hatchery season! Our hatchery team has been working diligently in the lab (AKA that long rusty shed on the harbor that you’ve always wondered about) for the past month and provide the foundation for everything that we do- baby oysters.
We are one of a handful of oyster farms with our own hatchery on the east coast, which allows us to have as much control over the final product as possible. We can influence the volume of seed we produce and ultimately harvest. We are able to select broodstock that are best suited to grow in our bay and that have specific traits a chef wants when they plate an oyster or create a dish around them.
Oysters are filter feeders and have two valves- one draws in water allowing them to eat, and the other pumps purified water out (which is the reason why oysters are so good for the environment). Oyster babies when first spawned are microscopic, so their food needs to be small enough for them to filter. We grow 6-8 varieties of algae, selected from oceans all over the world based off of their size and nutrient content. Just like with humans, baby oysters require a different cocktail of nutrients throughout their lifecycle (ie. breastmilk vs. bourbon).
Before we even touch an oyster, we must first grow algae to feed them with. When we spawn oysters it is on the scale of hundreds of millions, so we are constantly producing enough food to feed our many adorable babies. We begin this process in November so we have a batch ready to go for the first spawn in January.
Stay tuned for more updates throughout the winter!