Oysterman turns science into business

Georgia’s oyster harvesting season ended last month and won’t start up again until the fall, but some Georgia oystermen still are hard at work.
 
That’s because they’ve developed a new, more commercially viable way of oyster-growing.
 
A businessman says it’s all in the way the oysters look.
 
Justin Manley’s commute consists of a 20-minute boat ride. Several times a week, he motors a path through the tidal creeks of Liberty County, through miles of tall, green marsh grass, to his oyster beds in waters leased from the state.
 
“You got St. Catherines Island to the south, Ossabaw to the north and the opening to the ocean straight in the middle,” Manley said.
 
He recently dove into the oyster business because of more than a decade of research at the University of Georgia.
 
The Michigan native worked at the UGA marine lab in Savannah, where he learned about a new way of growing Georgia oysters so they can be sold individually instead of in bags by the bushel.
 
He owns one of three new Georgia businesses that grow oysters using the new method.
 
“For many years, the university and people in the industry were working really hard to figure out how to actually successfully cultivate single oysters,” Manley said. “And they were working, and they were working, and finally — all of a sudden — now there’s a solid method where you can actually do it successfully. And now it’s like, bam, everybody wants to get into it now.”
 
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