New oyster growing system
The TOPS Oysters™ technology concept is based on growing oysters as naturally as possible without the need for massive structures or systems to contain the oysters. TOPS Oysters™ believes that this makes it one of the most animal and environmentally friendly growing systems around.
With TOPS Oysters™, the initial emphasis is on growing quality spat. Investment in a good oyster "childhood" pays off even more so with TOPS Oysters™, because from spat stage until harvest, there is no more product handling needed. No more grading, biomass adjustment, or fouling control measures are involved. Thanks to the optimal spacing provided by TOPS Oysters™ at the point of seeding, no more husbandry intervention is needed until harvest. And there is even mechanization of the seeding process possible.
Free, non-caged growing
Like wild-grown oysters, TOPS Oysters™ are reared without any enclosures, providing free, unhindered water exchange and food supply. This environment mimics the best growing conditions that nature can provide for a quality oyster.
Different from any wild oyster, the well-prepared and selected TOPS Oysters™ are grown from spat onwards above the bottom sediment, suspended on structures under perfect conditions with optimum spacing to avoid crowding and competition. Growing oysters under these conditions without the stress of crowding makes the difference! TOPS Oysters™ show a perfect balance of growth between shell and meat.
No handling after seeding
By starting grow-out under the best conditions provided by hardened well-selected uniform spat, no more intervention in terms of handling is needed until harvest. Perfect spacing eliminates crowding so the oysters can grow unhindered to reach optimum quality. With TOPS Oysters™ uniform market size quality oysters can be obtained.
Seeding involves the gluing of spat onto tags/labels which are attached to tape at the desired spacing. This process can benefit from mechanization, using a seeding machine with the capacity to glue up to 25,000 oysters per day with two staff. This capacity is adequate for commercial production and can easily be expanded if required.
During mechanized seeding, TOPS Oysters™ spat can be attached to the tag in random direction. With the feature of the “loose” attachment of the spat and tag to the tape, oysters can freely rotate around the axis of the pin, and self-orientate.
So irrespective of their original direction at the time of gluing, the oysters will all end up pointing in the same direction during grow-out. This is an important feature of TOPS Oysters™ resulting in efficiently spaced oysters that self-orientate without touching each other.
Harvesting of TOPS Oysters™ can be efficiently carried out in a number of ways, both manually or mechanized. The method depends on the type of structure that the grower has used to suspend the seeded tape from. Common methods include suspension of tape from longlines, frames, racks, or stakes.
Harvesting involves the cutting off of a small pin that attaches the tag (label) and oyster to the tape. The tag is left attached to the oyster to form the label.