The Island Institute is now accepting applications for its 2019 Aquaculture Business Development program. Now in its fourth year, the free program helps fishermen and those from fishing communities gain the tools they need to diversify and launch small-scale aquaculture businesses. The Island Institute seeks to work with coastal and island residents who are highly motivated to start their shellfish or seaweed aquaculture businesses within the next two years. Applications are being accepted through March 14.

In its first three years, the program has had 75 participants, with a total of 20 starting businesses with crops in the water. The Island Institute estimates that these businesses have contributed more than $3.1 million to Maine’s economy. By 2020, the program’s goal is to have helped start 60 businesses with an overall impact on Maine’s economy totaling $36 million.

A benefit of the program is the opportunity for participants to visit established aquaculture businesses and connect with existing aquaculturists and industry experts, allowing them to learn firsthand the ins and outs of running a business like this. According to Jason Joyce, Swan's Island lobsterman and ABD participant, this knowledge was very useful in helping him and his cousin Josh make the decision to start their own oyster farm.

"Josh and I are both eighth-generation islanders and commercial fishermen with zero experience in aquaculture,” Joyce said. “The ABD program gave us the chance to consider the benefits while also weighing the costs of starting an oyster farm of our own.”

He continued, “Thanks to the program, we took the plunge two years ago and started Swan's Island Oyster Farm. We’ll be putting our oysters on the market this spring, and we couldn't have done it without their help."

This year’s cohort will kick off with all-group and individual meetings in April, followed by a two- to three-day aquaculture boot camp where participants will receive hands-on training at sea farms in early May. Throughout the summer, participants will receive one-on-one assistance from Island Institute staff as they start their businesses, and the year will round out with several more in-person meetings in the late fall and winter in order to cover the essential topics listed above.

Applications and additional information are available on the Island Institute website at, or by calling 594-9209, ext. 159. For questions regarding the Aquaculture Business Development program, contact Peter Piconi at or Sam Belknap at