A shared vision for the industry has created a new partnership

Josh Neese is making it his mission to expand the US aquaculture industry and ramp up oyster production in Florida.

The 41-year-old biologist has been involved with aquaculture for a decade and believes the US has a huge demand for craft oysters. With the industry still in its infancy, he’s created a patent-pending production model which allows farms to operate at their own scale and schedule to control their business.

He believes that SmartOysters, which has a similar ethos to help businesses grow through innovation and sustainability, aligns with his model which is why he’s signed up to be its first US lead generator. He will introduce the concept of SmartOysters and micro-finance firm Steward and its unique CrowdFarming investment model, to his clients to help them scale their businesses.

Josh Neese of the Florida Oyster Trading Co

“I believe we can all operate in the blue ocean philosophy. I believe there is so much need and so much abundance that new concepts need to be applied to realize the potential,” he says.

The oyster industry in Florida is relatively new. Some farms go back a decade, while the majority of leases were approved just five years ago.

“Along the Gulf (of Mexico), the states control the regulatory measures, and everyone is different. What they may do in Alabama is different to Florida. Our initial focus is to help Florida grow this industry. There’s so much opportunity we have 700 miles of coastline and we five to six times more farms already established here than the other states,” Josh says.  

“Florida is one of the most closely monitored states in regard to the division of aquaculture, approving leases, reporting and seafood traceability. It’s a litany of what I view as a great thing for operators and consumers - we can pinpoint where the seed stock was produced, out of what brood stock, on what date and when it was sold to a restaurant.”

Josh and SmartOysters connected on LinkedIn and their professional relationship went from there.

“It just grew organically, we have overlapping missions of helping the farms be successful,” Josh says.

“Talking to a few of the early adopters here on the Gulf, they’re fans of the service. Now it’s just a measure of exposure and that’s where I step in. I have a deep network in the industry,” Josh says.

“It's such a copycat industry and I don’t mean that negatively. If farm A is doing well, people want to know why. If farm A is a user of SmartOysters people what to know more about it. Once you have a few thought-leaders that are actually using the service, more people will be interested.

“SmartOysters are answering the question of farm management and day-to-day operations but another hurdle newly established farms face is financing.  Even established farms run into this threshold and without further investment they can't continue to grow. That's where Steward comes in,” Josh says.

“We’re answering and addressing hurdles, we’re attempting to supply solutions to make others more successful to grow the industry. It’s about helping people, not necessarily about the bottom line. These are people’s livelihoods. That's why I'm doing this. To help grow the industry and help the people in it to be successful.”