Get Started

Information for beginning farmers

Before you start your aquaculture farm, you should create a business plan. Start at the end and work backwards.  For example, what do you want to sell, how many pieces do you plan to sell each year (thousands, millions, etc), and what is the target market (wholesale, retail, Ecommerce, etc.).  The next step is to think about where you’ll locate your farm and what gear to use. Private leases are difficult to find in Virginia, as most areas are already leased.  Options are to work cooperatively with an existing grower that has leased ground, sublease from a leaseholder, or apply for a permit to work the water column without leasing the bottom (Joint Permit Application).  Once you have the plan in place, you can start working out more details and focus on the permitting required.  Note – shellfish culture is not a “get rich quick” business.  The estimate is 3-5 years before a farm starts making money.

Visit the NEW Virginia Aquaculture Tool! 

This website is a one-stop-shop for all you need to know about managing and operating a shellfish farm in Virginia. This resource includes information regarding: 

  • How to create a business, business plan, and develop a budget
  • Guidance on choosing an area to lease
  • Information on different gear types and the corresponding permits
  • Information about getting a lease permit
  • Requirements to legally harvest shellfish 
  • How to become a certified dealer, and much more!

Click here to download the comprehensive guide for personal reference. It includes information covered in the Virginia Aquaculture Tool (above) plus additional resources.