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Updated: August 10, 2023

Sea farmers get another tool to help boost business

boat wake buoy lines COURTESY / MAINE AQUACULTURE ASSOCIATION The Maine Aquaculture Association released a financing resources manual as part of its quest to boost the industry.

Maine’s aquaculture industry is on a roll when it comes to new ways to help it grow.

Developments in the past few years include publication of a first-of-its-kind financial benchmarking report for the industry, the nation’s first occupational standards and a Maine shellfish aquaculture career pathways map, as well as the launch of the nation’s first aquaculture apprenticeship program in the U.S. 

Now the Maine Aquaculture Association has released another new tool to help aquaculture farmers finance their businesses. 

The Maine Aquaculture Financing Resources Manual was developed by the association’s project manager, Christian Brayden, with support from FocusMaine, as an in-depth summary of all known financing resources available to Maine aquaculture producers. 

person with mustache smiling
Christian Brayden.

The Maine Aquaculture Association was established in 1978 as a nonprofit trade association that advocates for Maine’s finfish, shellfish and sea vegetable farmers. 

The manual notes that “financing an aquaculture business remains a challenging situation, but one that has become more attainable in the past five years” with an increase in the diversity of financing sources available to growers.

“We are pleased to deliver this comprehensive resource to the Maine aquaculture community at a time when many small businesses are beginning to develop business plans to scale and sustain their operations,” said Brayden. “It has been wonderful to see the proliferation of so many institutions providing financial backing to these burgeoning Maine family businesses."

The manual, produced by Maine Aquaculture Association with FocusMaine sponsorship, outlines loans, grants, economic development funds and tax incentives. 

“The number of aquaculture jobs in Maine has nearly doubled from 220 in 2017 to 445 in 2022,” said FocusMaine President and Co-chair Andrea Maker. “This resource will continue to strengthen and accelerate the growth of Maine’s aquaculture businesses.”

Peter Piconi, a certified business advisor with the Maine Small Business Development Centers hosted at Coastal Enterprises Inc., said the manual goes a long way to help farmers navigate options and determine risk, and empowers them to plot a path for sustainable growth.

“One of the greatest hurdles to growth in aquaculture has always been finding financial support — whether it’s funds to get a new business started or money to scale up production,” said Piconi.

The manual is the latest tool in a suite of resources developed by the the association with support from FocusMaine to guide beginning aquatic farmers in developing sustainable business practices, including business plans, production plans, financial benchmarking reports, marketing tools, and a distribution guide — all developed by Brayden and colleagues. 

Brayden also offers free business planning and consultation services to new and growing farmers. To date, over 80 farmers have participated in the program. 

To download the manual, click here.

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