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Alternative Oyster Culture Grant Recipients Announced

The first round of Alternative Oyster Culture (AOC) grants, totaling $330,000, have been announced.

Grants were awarded to:

  • Marcos Guerrero, dba Grand Isle Sea Farms, for a nursery farm and grow-out farm
  • Scott Maurer, dba Louisiana Oyster Co. Farm, for a nursery farm and grow-out farm
  • Jules Melancon, dba Caminada Bay Oyster Farm, for a nursery farm and grow-out farm
  • Brandi Shelley, dba Shelley Farms Premium Louisiana Oysters, for a nursery farm and grow-out farm
  • Nathan Herring, dba Bright Side Oyster Farm, for a grow-out farm
  • Kim Galjour, dba Dos Gris Oyster Farm, for a grow-out farm
Photo: AOC Grant Recipients

AOC grant recipients are (from left) Scott Maurer, Nathan Herring, Boris Guerrero, Marcos Guerrero, Jules Melancon, Kim Galjour, Brandi Shelley and Terry Shelley.

The first round of competitive funding was open to all Louisiana licensed oyster fishers. A second-round application announcement is scheduled for April. Individuals who were not funded in the first round are automatically enrolled in the second round.

First-round grant priority was given to cage-culture farmers who were already in the business and impacted by Hurricanes Zeta and Ida. Individuals had to apply for each type of grant, and each was independently assessed in the award process with no guarantee that success in one category meant success in another. Award amounts were $15,000 per nursery farm and $45,000 per grow-out farm.

“Congratulations to the recipients that have been awarded funds in the first round of the AOC grant program,” said Wood Oglesby, Louisiana Sea Grant AOC program outreach coordinator. Oglesby’s role in the program is to be an extension-type liaison working with new and existing farmers to help them develop alternative culture oyster businesses. “I’m excited for what’s ahead and I look forward to the association between farmers and Sea Grant,” he added.

Funding for the grant program, which is administered by Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) and awarded by the Iberia Development Foundation (IDF), comes from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).

The goal of the program is to expand AOC operations across the state. That includes establishing AOC seed nurseries and grow-out facilities, hatcheries and areas legally designated as AOC Management Units (parks) that contain multiple farms in one location.

Grant recipients were chosen by a selection committee made up of impartial industry experts, who evaluated each on a competitive scale based on five key elements. The committee reviewed the applicants’ personal qualifications and experience, the AOC site location as it influences the biological and physiological needs of the oyster and the ability to work and harvest without influences of public health concerns. Additionally, the committee was able to evaluate an applicant’s personal thoughts on what AOC means to them and how prepared they are to start a business, and any outside financial efforts they may be pursuing to bolster their business through grants.

Visit to stay informed about grant application opening and deadline information.

Over the life of the three-year program, $1.8 million in grants will be available to AOC operators to acquire equipment and supplies to enhance existing businesses or establish new AOC businesses. Grant recipients are reimbursed – after submitting receipts, invoices and other documentation – for their purchases, up to the total amount of his or her grant.

AOC is when oysters are grown in floating cages or in bottom-placed cages attached to pylons. This method allows the cages to be raised and lowered to protect oysters from predators, fouling and the burial effects of disasters like hurricanes.

“The Iberia Development Foundation is excited to be part of the team that is bringing this needed program to south Louisiana,” said Mike Tarantino, IDF president. “The foundation’s mission of economic and community development fits perfectly with the goals of the Alternative Oyster Program creating new opportunities for job creation, disaster recovery and industry resilience.”

The Iberia Development Foundation (IDF) was founded in 2011 as a 501c3 non-profit foundation to perform community and economic development activities within Iberia Parish. They provide assistance to businesses and individuals to develop and enhance best business practices, as well as offer programs and assistance pertaining to disaster preparedness and recovery.