As shellfish aquaculture continues to grow rapidly in Maine, farms are struggling to generate revenue and scale their businesses to commerical-scale levels. These startup farms are often owned by those who are new to the industry, often lacking essential knowledge and resources to run a successful aquaculture business. Shellfish aquaculture businesses are vulnerable to environmental and economic risks, which are exacerbated by the growing influence of climate change. Farms’ abilities to respond to these risks will depend on their financial and technical resources, making startup farms particularly risk vulnerable.
This project's principal investigators will consist of two economists, one ecologist, and one outreach specialist who will conduct qualitative and quantitative assessments and compare risk exposure, sensitivity, and coping strategies between startup and commercial lease farms. The PIs will work with industry and regulatory stakeholders to implement scientific research findings through community practice development, a concept that sparks innovation and adaptive capacity by promoting knowledge exchange and the sharing of best practices between stakeholders. This project aims to facilitate social learnings among the farms to build collective resilience.
In Massachusetts and Maine, shellfish and marine algae aquaculture offers critical income opportunities for coastal communities suffering from the decline of wild capture fisheries. Most shellfish and algae aquaculture producers in these states are small-scale, and while these producers bring innovation and energy to the sector, they also have limited financial and human capital which makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental (e.g., harmful algal blooms) and market shocks (e.g., COVID-19). These businesses could mitigate risks and vulnerabilities by investing in shared capital across different operations. Despite this opportunity, small aquaculture businesses face significant barriers to sharing capital.
The long-term goal of this project is to increase the profitability of small-scale commercial shellfish and marine algae aquaculture producers in New England. This project will increase farm profitability by identifying the conditions under which aquaculture businesses are willing to invest in shared physical and knowledge capital to improve profitability, and provide policy recommendations that foster a supportive business environment for capital sharing
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