Researchers collaborate with Maryland companies to innovate new technology

October 3, 2022

Two University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) researchers received support from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program to collaborate with Maryland-based companies on technology product development projects.

Assistant Professor Matthew Gray is working with Ferry Cove Shellfish to develop and test a new, man-made base for oyster aquaculture. Annual demand for Chesapeake Bay grown oysters exceeds 2.6 million bushels, but a barrier to further growth of the sector is the lack of affordable oyster shell, the preferred material used in the production of spat-on-shell. Oysters grow by larvae settling onto shells on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay and growing up into reefs. This project will focus on developing, manufacturing, and testing a new artificial shell substitute that has similar properties to an oyster shell yet can be cost-effectively produced at scale.

The proposed material is a modified mortar mix with shell-like qualities that will be sprayed on fabricated wire/polyester mold in large sheets. Once cured it will be separated into individual tiles and placed into a setting production facility where larvae will be added to determine its setting efficiency vis-à-vis actual oyster shell. The material will then be planted in the Bay to observe it’s material properties over time as the oysters mature.

Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology Associate Professor Yantao Li is working with Baltimore-based AlgaBT LLC to develop a technique to produce astaxanthin, an antioxidant health supplement from microalgae, while reducing the discharge of nutrient-rich water into the Chesapeake Bay. Chicken manure, a waste production from chicken farms linked to nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, will be used to produce high-value algal products for the healthcare market while providing an innovative way to reduce the discharge of nutrient-rich water from poultry farms into the bay and help restore waterways.

Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program provides funding, matched by participating companies, for university-based research projects that help the companies develop new products, bringing the inventive minds and extensive laboratory resources of the University System of Maryland (USM) to bear on creating the new products that feed the growth of Maryland businesses.