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1 min read

PCSGA: Understanding the West Coast Industry

By Chip Terry on Sep 30, 2019 9:57:00 AM

Just spent a week out in Portland OR at the 73rd! Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association.  Really interesting.  Here are some of my takeaways.

1) The industry on the West Coast is different.  The farms are larger.  They have been in business for much longer (often generations).  They farm mostly Pacific (Gigas) Oysters, Clams and Goeducks. 

2) Like on the East Coast, there are a lot of really smart people working on specific problems.  Ocean Acidification, Green Crab Invasions....

3) Like on the east coast, most farms are moving towards container culture.  In most cases, they are using Flip Bags. There is a lot less floating gear except up in British Columbia.

4) There have been some significant die offs and there isn't always an obvious cause. But there are a lot of smart people working on it.

5) The export market is a lot more important. A significant amount of product leaves for Asia every day.  Tariffs have not helped.  

6)You learn a lot more at the bar than in the sessions!

 

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Topics: #PCSGA73
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2 min read

Long Island: Amazing

By Chip Terry on Sep 27, 2019 9:00:30 AM

Spent 4 days earlier this month visiting clients and prospects on Long Island.  Clearly this is a region on the rise.  The fresh water of the Atlantic flushes the Little and Great Peconic IMG_2972 (1)Bays creating ideal growing conditions. The communities are largely supportive. The farms can sell to great restaurants on Long Island or within a few hours they can have their product in NYC. No wonder the number of farmers and the size of the farms is growing.IMG_3017

The folks couldn't be nicer--The Burkes from Happy Oyster even put me up at their house for the night. Check out their hilarious YouTube channel.  

The farmers I met were often folks who had decided to move from desk jobs in NYC to become farmers. One had worked for tech startups. Another was an ex-art restorer. The Burke's had owned a bicycle shop. Others had left Wall Street. Some were multi-generation and still going strong.

The Long Island oyster thrived from before Europeans arrived until the early 20th century. But like many places, pollution and over-harvesting devastated the wild populations and much of the industry shut down. Today, new techniques, cleaner water, and new energy is bringing back this historic fishery. It is a good news story in a time when we need more uplifting media.  Thanks for all you do.

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1 min read

Oyster Tracker Grows Up

By Chip Terry on Sep 20, 2019 1:03:27 PM

Oyster Tracker recently hit two big milestones--we raised money and hired our first Chief Technical Officer full time.  Having clients in 10 different states and 3 countries has taught us a lot. We now know a lot more about what the industry needs, what we should build and how we should support you.  With talent and money, we can bring our solution to the next level.

Our CTO is Andy Kearney.  Andy has been working nights and weekends to build our current product.  He is a talented engineer who most recently led a large engineering team at VRBO (a division on Expedia).  We have worked together in the past and I know we are incredibly lucky to have such a talented leader.  Andy works closely with Cat Ganim and Drew Condon our leaders of user experience and product.  Together they make a really capable team that will continue to make our product easier to use and more valuable. 

The investors in our company are what is known in this world as "smart" money. They see a big opportunity to help you all be more successful, but they know we need more than just money. We need support. Our investors range from institutions like Maine Venture Fund and Branch Ventures, to individuals who have a passion for aquaculture.  Two of the investors are active oyster farmers. One is a former marine biologist another runs the largest organic food distributor in the Northeast. Two are active CEOs of mid-size companies. Many have deep experience globally and in other aquaculture ventures. In other words, it is a great range of folks who will give us superb support. 

Bottom line:  This will be great for our clients.  We will continue to improve the product, add new solutions and provide the support they deserve.  

Thank you for all you have done so far.  We are eager to continue working with you.

Chip, Andy, Cat, and Drew

Topics: #CTO
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2 min read

Oyster Tracker releases new version and grows customer base

By Chip Terry on Aug 27, 2019 6:06:00 PM

Excuse the brag, but every once is a while we like to take note of what we have accomplished. Here is our latest press release.

The only custom built platform for Shellfish Farmers, Oyster Tracker, has released a series of upgrades to make managing an oyster, mussel, clam, scallop or sea vegetable farm easier. The major upgrades include

  • Self-Service: Farms can now be configured and changed by the farmers.
  • Improved Data Entry: Different types of farming and husbandry techniques are tracked quickly and easily--generally in less than 10 minutes per day.
  • New Data Structure: To both improve performance and the insights from data.
  • Better Reporting: On everything from current inventory and last week’s activities, to the growth rates of different seed classes.

Farmers have been embracing this improved platform in increasing numbers. From farmers like Happy Oyster in New York and Saltwater Farms in Rhode Island to Running Tide in Maine. Here is what they have to say about the new Oyster Tracker.

“We were looking for a system that could help keep the chaos under control. So far Oyster Tracker has been great for our business” Toni-Jo Birk, The Happy Oyster Company

“As we start a new farm, we are looking to optimize our husbandry practices so we can deliver a consistently excellent product. Oyster Tracker’s ability to track the data makes a huge difference.” Sean Foorman, Running Tide Oysters

“Having worked with Oyster Tracker for over a year, it is great to see them continually improving the solution. They have made a number of updates we asked for. Our time spent generating reports for our insurance company have been dramatically reduced.” Adam Silkes, American Mussel Harvesters

According to Cat Ganim, product lead for Oyster Tracker: “The key to any successful business is listening to your clients and understanding how to make their lives easier and more successful. We have visited over 60 farms in the last year and really understand the challenges that this industry faces as it scales. We have a long list of plans to help the farmers be more successful. These latest releases are just the start.“

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Real time inventory--that is easily exportable

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Easy to use log book--with pictures!

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Setting up a farm has never been easier.

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3 min read

Insurance, Really?

By Chip Terry on Jul 27, 2019 6:07:00 PM

This is the most boring post ever, but potentially the most important.  Imagine this scenario: 

You’ve invested years of your life and your entire life savings starting the best farm ever.  You bought a million seed and you are a week away from harvest. Boom! A tornado/hurricane/nor-easter/ice-storm takes out your farm. 

What happens? You have no insurance:  Call your mom and see if she has an extra bedroom.  It is going to be a long road.

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Ice destroying a farm in the Northeast.

You have catastrophic coverage for weather-related losses from the Farm Service Agency (known as "NAP" or Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program) and your original seed receipts. Better. You would likely get $16,380.  If you are in Massachusetts here is the calculation the adjuster will make (each state is different).

  1. By the end of year one you would have lost 70%.
  2. In year two you would lose another 60%
  3. Hence at the end of year 2, they assume you have 120,000 oysters ready for sale.
  4. At $.51/oyster (the established market rate for Mass) that is worth $61,200--but unless you have paid for an upgraded plan, they only pay 55% of the market price $33,660
  5. They would then pay 50% of the value: $16,380

You have Catastrophic insurance from NAP and a verifiable inventory from the day before the catastrophic event that shows you have 600,000 market size oysters. Now you are in better shape. Instead of taking conservative averages, the adjuster can take your inventory and use it as the baseline.  You have $306,000 of crop value. Using the same calculations above, they pay out 50% of the value at 55% of the established market price: $84,120.

Bottom line: 

Basic coverage is cheap: Basic NAP coverage costs $325/year--and it is free if you have been farming for less than 10 years. And they do have better coverage--like paying out at market price instead of 55% of market price. Ask your county FSA office for details.

Inventory Records are critical: You need a reliable, verifiable, and contemporaneous account of your inventory.  What each adjuster will accept is a bit different, but a key is to have no large gaps in the records.  If you show up and say “I counted all my bags yesterday and here is what I have” and you don’t have records of doing that each month for the last 12 months you are probably going to be out of luck.  

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Hurricane Michael taking out farms on the Gulf Coast

If you have a record in  your notebook of all your activities for the last year with quantities of equipment and stocking density you are going to be in much better shape.  If you dropped that book overboard and it got wiped out? Good luck. Of course, this is self-serving, but if you have a cloud based record of all your inventory and activities for the last 2 years, push a button and send it off.  You will be back in business in no time.

Here is the recommendation from the ECSGA newsletter:

If you are not keeping meticulous records now you should start. ....This is probably a good time to invest in one of those nifty new inventory management software programs.

You are still better off with no disaster, but these insurance programs will help you get back on your feet.  As you get bigger and more sophisticated you can and should look at other options. NAP and good inventory records are a great place to start.  Hopefully you will never have to use it.  

Your to-do's  

  1. Call your local FSA office and sign up for NAP by Sept 1st
  2. Keep inventory records (Call us if you want help).
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Scallops Do Have Eyes

By Chip Terry on May 14, 2019 6:07:00 PM

OK. So I published fake news. In our last newsletter, I used a reddit post:

It’s super weird that clams, oysters, mussels and scallops don’t have eyes, but not as weird as it would be if they did have eyes.

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Turns out scallops are super weird. They have up to 200 eyes. Here are the details.

And in case you are wondering, clams and oysters have light sensing organs.

I stand corrected. It is also amazing that I got that feedback from 4 people within 30 minutes of sending the newsletter. Thanks for reading.

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1 min read

Oysters can save $9 billion on Healthcare

By Chip Terry on May 13, 2019 6:08:00 PM

Roughly 41 million Americans took an antidepressant last month. What if eating oysters could reduce that number?

Studies have shown that the vitamin B12 in oysters can reduce brain shrinkage!! And the omega-3 fatty acids that oysters have in abundance can reduce suicide and depression. At least one psychiatrist is "prescribing oysters to his patients....He says the results prove what we eat could be another tool in improving mental health."

If each American who had depression was prescribed a dozen oysters per week. That would be 24.6 billion oysters! Or a wholesale value of over $12 billion. And even if it only worked 10% of the time, that would be a savings of over $9 billion annually.

And for our farmers to meet that 24.6 billion oysters? They would have to increase production 24 fold.

Bottom line: Eat oysters. Live happy. Save money. Grow a lot more oysters.

Details:

Instead of medication, this psychiatrist is prescribing oysters to his patients (April, 2019)

13% of Americans Take Antidepressants (CDC/Time Magazine)

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