Industry Challenges

Listed below are industry challenges currently available for consideration by participating teams at upcoming Challenge Events.      BACK TO CHALLENGE EVENTS


Agricultural Diversity – The typical farmer is 60 years old and the face of agriculture is fairly homogenous. A challenge would be to come up with solutions that address the lack of diversity in agriculture.

On Farm Dairy Processing – Dairy farms are challenged. Liquid milk consumption has been declining for several years. Dairy operators have become more efficient in producing more milk and would benefit from being able to affordably process their milk into cheese and other dairy related products on their farm. A challenge would be to come up with a cost-effective solution for these diaries.

Urban Food Deserts – In several of our nearby urban areas, there are places where access to fresh produce is lacking. Farmers markets, although a solution, haven’t fully addressed the food desert issue. A challenge would be to come up with a solution that brings produce from local farms into cities (whether in stores, bodegas or other vehicles) to provide fresh produce to urban consumers.

Out-of-Service Poultry Houses – In parts of the Delmarva area, there are vacant poultry houses (typically due to newer ones being built on the farms). A challenge is to repurpose these older poultry houses into a use that will provide a revenue source for the farmers. A solution would include a pathogen survey and a remediation plan as well as the end usage.  Repurposing poultry houses

Crop Loss Due to Deer – A challenge farmers face is that an overabundance of deer means that loss of crops due to consumption is a real problem. Many types of solutions have been investigated, but as of yet, there is no solution.

Data Entry for Small Farmers – Small farmers have are challenged with a convenient and accurate way to note what they have planted, when it was put into the ground and exactly where the plants are. A solution would be a tablet or cell phone based app that would geolocate the plantings (including time/date, type of plant and other variables that would be helpful to the farmer).


Theft Mitigation – Theft of oysters and oyster cages has become a recognized problem state and nationwide. The challenge is to create a method of monitoring oyster leases and imaging, alerting and tracking the theft of gear and/or oysters and lease markers.

Nursery AutomationThe ability to automate the human component in the nursery stage of raising oysters would free up valuable human resources for the grow-out portion of the production. This could include cleaning tanks and upwellers, grading, or entire system overhaul.

Algae on Oysters and GearThe buildup of organisms, such as algae, tunicates, and bryzoans, on oyster cages, ropes, bags, buoys, and oysters (fouling) presents multiple issues. They make cages more difficult to clean, impede water flow/access to food, and compete with oysters. A challenge would be to come up with an organic or technological solution to eliminate/reduce biofouling but that won’t harm the oysters growing in the cages or the environment the cages are in.

Real Time Water Quality MonitoringSalinity and oxygen matter. The higher the salinity, the more likely oysters will thrive. The lower the dissolved oxygen, the less likely the oyster will survive. Rainfall can lower the amount of salinity in the Chesapeake Bay to levels that make it difficult for oysters to survive and reproduce. Sewage runoff creates oxygen dead zones. A challenge would be to have real time salinity and oxygen monitoring, as well as a GIS overlay of available commercial access to the water.

Species Diversification – The entire aquaculture industry in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay is subject to one species, the eastern oyster.  Research and investment in other types of aquaculture will diversify and help to stabilize the industry as they respond to changing markets.  A hatchery that produces clam, oyster and scallop larvae, can have a product almost 9 months a year rather than 6 months. Species diversification requires research, technology transfer, and permitting mechanisms. Right now, there is not a true permit in place to culture these species using species-specific gear.  While permits are for ‘shellfish’, it would take DNR some time to determine how to permit lantern nets used for scallops, or hanging ropes for mussels (which are the industry standards in other states.)  Market studies are needed to see if other shellfish species could be profitable for aquaculture farms in Maryland.

Data Entry for Oyster FarmsCurrently oyster growers record the time, location and other key data about their lease areas on a spreadsheet, whiteboard, paper, old receipts, etc…. A challenge would be to find a way for oyster farmers to record where the oysters are planted/worked and when to aid in optimal farming. A tablet based software system that allows farms to track batches of oyster from nursery (planting) to harvest would increase the efficiency of an oyster farm.  It would assist farmers in identifying and solving problems in their businesses, areas of leases that are not performing well, and provide data and insight into the cost/benefit of husbandry best management practices.

Maryland-based Shucking House – A few of the smaller oyster growers in Maryland have their own small shucked product and sell shucked pints/quarts of oysters as a value-added product.  For many though, they sell a large portion of their product to a shuck house out-of-state. This results in the shell (cultch) leaving Maryland, which is a scarce resource for restoration and bottom-lease operations in the Chesapeake Bay.  A shucking operation in Maryland would allow for shell to be kept within the State.