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The hatchery is where we make oyster babies. It resembles any other livestock rearing here in New England–think spring lambs or chicks–where we need to breed the babies and keep them warm, sheltered, and fed through the late winter and early spring so they can get right to growing once they are put out in May or June. Because of this, it is the most resource intensive phase of oyster production. We have to heat the water and grow LOTS of algae to feed the little buggers.

All year we collect the “handsome devils” from out on the farm–adult oysters that exhibit desirable traits such as shell shape, meat content, growth rate, and disease resistance–and we bring them inside in January to ripen. Once they spawn we capture hundreds of millions of free swimming larvae that soon metamorphose into a microscopic oyster with a shell. We hold them indoors until they are moved out into the upwelled at about the size of a flake of ground pepper. At that size, one handful of 800,000 oysters weighs about two pounds. Eighteen months from now that two pound handful will take up about two acres of Duxbury Bay and weigh nearly 200,000 lbs.

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