Innovation Bolsters Aquaculture Industry

Built on ingenuity and entrepreneurism, Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company was branded Chesapeake Gold Oysters in 2010. Co-owners Johnny Shockley and Ricky Fitzhugh pioneered the innovative aquaculture movement in Dorchester County using the latest technologies. Supported by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Rural Development Loan, Eastern Shore Entrepreneurial Center, Dorchester County Economic Development, and their own resources, the partners renovated an old wholesale fish market, purchased equipment and began raising oysters on their newly leased grounds. It was once a thriving industry that provided livelihoods for many families on the bay but overharvesting, pollution and disease caused population declines. “We’re developing a company that will provide the infrastructure to support a new approach of producing oysters on the Chesapeake,” said Shockley. Always pushing the innovative edge, Shockley and Fitzhugh designed a system that could easily transition traditional oystering methods used by generations of watermen on the Chesapeake Bay to more efficient methods. Their oysters are grown in cages on the bottom of the bay and then cleaned throughout maturation. They are salted to desired levels at a shore facility to make up for the bay’s inconsistent salinity. Chesapeake Gold hosts tours of their facility and share their ingenuity with …

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Water Moves Us to Transform Traditional Industries

Generations of Eastern Shore residents earned their living plying the Chesapeake’s rivers and tributaries for the seafood synonymous with the Bay itself. As population growth and overfishing threatened the region’s once thriving industry, Dorchester ingenuity and entrepreneurism stepped in. Watermen turned entrepreneurs, Johnny Shockley and Ricky Fitzhugh established Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture Company, branded Chesapeake Gold, in 2010 to use new technologies and techniques to cultivate oysters. Supported in part by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Rural Development Loan with support of the Dorchester County Economic Development Office, the partners renovated an old wholesale fish house, purchased equipment and began raising oysters in their newly licensed beds. Visit http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/green/blog/bs-gr-oyster-farming-20131126,0,3436725.story and learn how Dorchester leads Maryland in oyster farming.

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Dorchester Unveils 2014 Marketing Campaign

On Tuesday, January 14, Dorchester County Economic Development Director Keasha Haythe unveiled the county’s 2014 business marketing campaign before the Economic Development Advisory Committee. The ad campaign is the latest installment of “water moves us,” the economic branding program Haythe introduced last fall to elected and community leaders. The inaugural advertisements profile Dorchester’s business strengths and opportunities. Highlighting specific industries and showcasing successful people, the campaign features bold photography, memorable copy and compelling stories. The seven campaign profiles illustrate how Dorchester’s identity reflects the landscape, culture and the character of the people who live, work and visit. The industries and companies featured in the 2014 campaign are: Agriculture (Layton’s Chance Winery); Aquaculture (Chesapeake Gold); Arts and Creative Class (Dorchester Center for the Arts); Manufacturing (GKD); Restaurants/Retail (Realerevival Brewing); Small Business (TNT Moving & Cleaning); and Tourism (Harriet Tubman State Park). “Water moves us” captures the heritage, identity and economic opportunities unique to our county,” Haythe said, “we plan to add new profiles each year to continue to tell our stories of industrious and innovative entrepreneurs and business leaders.” The 2014 campaign will be featured on Dorchester County’s website, in social media, on banners, brochures, print and digital advertisements as well …

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Dorchester Leads State in Oyster Farming

Growing Aquaculture Industry Set to Shatter Records by 2014 Ask the nation’s seafood lovers about where the best tasting oysters are found, and choices from Long Island, New England, Prince Edward Island, and the Pacific Northwest frequently come to mind. If Dorchester County’s local oyster farmers have their way, bivalves from the waters of the Choptank and Hooper’s Island will soon join that list. Dorchester County is the hub of Maryland oyster farming. The county outpaces all others with a total of 64 shellfish aquaculture leases out of 322 statewide, according to Karl Roscher, Aquaculture Division Director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Included are 22 leases issued since 2010 for farms coming into production. They represent a quarter of new leases in Maryland. An additional 12 Dorchester County leases are under review. Dorchester oyster farmers produced approximately 1.025 million oysters in 2012, according to reports maintained by DNR. Roscher expects that number to at least double in 2013 with significant increases to follow as new operations come online. The leases vary from larger commercial operations looking to sell premium oysters found on the tables of top restaurants to farmers who sell by the bushel and those raising …

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County Hosts Shrimp Farming Franchise Forum

On March 23, Dorchester’s Economic Development Department hosted a meeting of 40 farmers for a presentation by Hurlock-based Marvesta Shrimp on the RDM Grower Program, a new franchise and production initiative the 10-year old company launched in partnership with Indiana-based RDM Aquaculture. Similar to Purdue’s poultry growers program, the new business model creates a network of shrimp farmer on the Eastern Shore. Led by Marvesta Shrimp CEO Guy Furman, attendees learned how the company would partner with poultry growers and farmers to create a network of 10-20 shrimp farms in the next 12 months. Furman pursued this model to significantly increase shrimp production to meet increased demand for high quality, sustainably farmed product in the Washington and Philadelphia seafood markets. The company sells direct to restaurants, supermarkets and distributors. “Since we are working with a smaller, less expensive, easier to use technology, there is now an opportunity for people to get into a new industry with a growing demand and make more money than with conventional agricultural products,” Furman explained, adding, “We hope this is the beginning of a new model in aquaculture and an economic boost for the entire region. The two-hour forum included a comprehensive presentation by Furman …

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