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2 min read

Meet Kam: Farmer and Fisherman

By Chip Terry on Jun 14, 2021 8:06:10 AM

Although BlueTrace software is great, the key to success is having folks like Kam Kim of Newport News, VA on the team.  

 

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Kam was a farm manager at Cherrystone, one of the largest farms on the east coast, growing millions oysters  before moving on to be the field logistics specialist for the oyster breeding program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).

“I used BlueTrace when I was at VIMS,” said Kam. “Back then, we were spending hours and hours trying to find certain bags scattered about underwater. I can’t tell you how stressful it was trying to remember how to track my inventory and what I needed to do next. Once we used BlueTrace, every single bag was accounted for and we always could pinpoint the specific place to find the one we needed.”

Because Kam works with farmers all over the world, he is immersed in their day-to-day logistics. “You can keep track of when you planted the seed, how many bags you planted, when you need to check them, when to thin your oysters out, and pinpoint what time of year they’re growing fastest,” 

As he tells it aquaculture farmers have always tried to track their inventory in their heads, on wet, muddy notebooks, on whiteboards, and cobbled together with Excel sheets. “Shellfish are live animals; they need care and attention, and having to remember all of those little details to keep these animals alive can be very stressful,” he said. “It’s why we created this software because we had so many farmers tell us ‘I can’t manage all of this by myself.’ ”

BlueTrace’s Farm Manager software gives farmers complete control over every piece of data. Just using an iPad, they can see in real-time when the team completes a work task.

And BlueTrace comes with one more bonus: Kam. “I work with all of my farmers directly, one-on-one, whenever they need,” he said. “They can ask me any questions and find the shortcuts around mistakes I’ve already learned.”

From the shellfish farmer new to the business to the established farmer who
relishes data-driven reports, there is a high value for farmers to go home at the end of the day with complete peace of mind knowing that the Farm Manager tool hasn’t missed a thing. According to Kam, "Giving farmers free time to enjoy their lives is one of the most satisfying parts of the job"

Kam uses most of his free time to fish, hunt, and hang with his fellow oyster farmers.  Follow his Instagram to see the amazing catches he reels in every week. 

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2 min read

Insurance:  Recordkeeping Matters

By Chip Terry on May 20, 2021 7:10:10 AM

Below is a nice description of the new ELAP insurance program from the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Farmers will be wise to heed their advice and keep good records.  

"Qualifying for any insurance program is going to require that you do a good job documenting your inventory - This makes a strong argument for investing in some software to manage your farm so you can show planting, harvest and background mortality rates. "

[Below is the email from ECSGA.  Please join them.  They do great work for the industry.]

The USDA Farm Service Agency has added farmed shellfish - (and other food fish and bait fish used to feed food fish) to the list of farmed crops eligible for the Emergency Livestock, Honey-Bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). ELAP removes some of the challenging paperwork issues, raises some of the payment caps, and raises the payout ratio to 60% of your documented inventory loss for qualified losses. (90% for socially disadvantaged, limited resource, or beginning or veteran farmer or ranchers)  This is a far superior program to the FSA's Non-Insured Crop Disaster Program (NAP) - and the two programs can both be used to mitigate losses and provide indemnity from the same storm (ELAP also covers losses from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal surge, tornadoes and certain events not covered by NAP)

We would like to thank the National Aquaculture Association and especially members of the Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas Congressional delegations that responded to outreach by the Catfish Farmers of America, National Aquaculture Association, Texas Aquaculture Association, Redfish Farmers of America, Southern Illinois fish farmers, American Farm Bureau Federation, and Soy Aquaculture Alliance

 

Attached is a new ELAP fact sheet specific to these changes.  Note reporting requirements for application dates and for filing your crop acreage reports.  If I understand this correctly, it appears that access to the program is retroactive so if you had a significant loss in 2020 you might still be able to file a claim.

Industry leaders were invited to a webinar this morning to explain the program. We anticipate a webinar for growers to be announced shortly.

We would like to recognize and appreciate the responsive and thoughtful efforts of US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Under Secretary Gloria Montaño Greene, Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux and the FSA staff. 

Note: Qualifying for any insurance program is going to require that you do a good job documenting your inventory - This makes a strong argument for investing in some software to manage your farm so you can show planting, harvest and background mortality rates.  There are several products available our newsletter.

 

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1 min read

Printers & Supply Chains

By Chip Terry on May 5, 2021 9:09:47 AM

Supply Chains are the lifeblood of our economy.  From how a shellfish gets from the tideline to the table, to how a semi-conductor chip gets from a factory in Asia to a printer on a farm.  

As many of you know, We have been dealing with printer issues for the last few months.  Turns out we have the same issue as the Ford F-150 factories.  A shortage of inexpensive semiconductor chips is holding us up.  Fortunately we haven't had to stop production, we just had to switch printers. 

For our tagging and distributor clients, we will be shipping new Zebra Printers instead of the TSC printers we have been doing so far.  The TSC printers are great, but we we just can't get any. The Zebra printers are just as good so and seem to have a better supply. We are now certified resellers of both TSC and Zebra printers, giving us resiliency in this time of supply chain disruptions.  As always, they come with a 2 year warranty.  

As part of the switch, our line up of printers now includes:

1) Mobile printers: Ideal for printing less than 150 tags per day especially in remote locations. TSC Alpha 3r and Zebra 521Q.  The benefits of the mobile is they run on batteries for 2 days and are pretty durable (certified for 5' drops).  The drawback is the paper is thinner than other tags.

2) Industrial Printers: Ideal for printing more than 150 tags per day The Zebra ZT411.  The industrial holds ~760 to 950 tags per roll and prints on a thicker paper.  

Both printers work directly from the phone via Bluetooth--no need for cables.  Both use thermal printing so there is no smudging or ink to worry about.  You can easily switch between the two printer types: for instance if you want to print some tags on the boat and others back in the plant.  

 

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1 min read

Tell Your Story

By Chip Terry on Feb 2, 2021 10:01:11 AM

We continue to hear amazing stories from farmers.

  • The lobster men and women who have built great businesses growing amazing products. 
  • The Wall Street guy who found peace getting back to his roots. 
  • The ex-WNBA player who is out every morning at the crack of dawn tending her crop.
  • The young folks taking over the family business.

The list goes on and every farm has a great story to tell.  And consumers want to know:

  • Who grows my food?
  • Why are they doing it?
  • How do they do it?
  • What makes it so amazing? 

Telling your story moves you from that Buck-A-Shuck menu to the $3/shell menu.  

Many farmers have amazing websites, Instagram feeds, brochures, videos and the like. Using these tools is critically important for growing your business. We suggest starting small, but be sure to start.  Folks want to know your authentic story.  What makes you and your farm special? 

We just added another tool that should be helpful--and is really low maintenance: QR Codes on tags.

Every shellfish tag we print includes a QR code that links to more information about the product and the farm.  Now that chef, shucker, wait person, or end consumer can learn your story right on their phone.  

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Virtual Tradeshow

By Chip Terry on Jan 15, 2021 4:54:18 PM

We did a virtual tradeshow with the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association.  Over 90 people showed up!!

Thank you to ECSGA and Bob Rheault for amazing work they have been doing in these trying times.  The show was great for us, but really the power of these organizations is the work they do behind the scenes to keep the industry humming. If you have the means, please join your state or regional organization.  

If you want to see our presentation, visit our YouTube channel.  Enjoy.  

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1 min read

Good News from our Clients

By Chip Terry on Jan 13, 2021 1:02:14 PM

The Aquaculture North America just published it's latest magazine, and our clients are in two separate articles:

1) Shellfish Growers Embrace New Technologies, by Lynn Fantom, profiles growers like Ted Cooney of Madhouse Oysters in Maryland

Cooney took the plunge from Excel spreadsheets to white boards to farm management software quickly, too. When Maine-based entrepreneur Chip Terry demonstrated how a new platform was “like a second brain” to manage tasks from cleaning to tumbling, Madhouse Oysters became one of the first customers of Oyster Tracker. The program also helped Cooney analyze productivity. “I can even look at it from home,” he adds. 

2) A sidebar article: New FDA Rule Triggers Issues on How To Tag and Trace tracks the looming regulatory changes and how Oyster Tracker can help folks stay compliant.  Including the following:

For their operation, Calm Cove Oyster Company, Duane Fagergren chose the digital system launched by Oyster Tracker last spring and already in use at 50 farms. He enters information on his iPhone, which is then stored in the Cloud. A small, weather-resistant portable printer lets him print out a tag with a QR code that “makes regulators happy with the chain of custody.” And if requirements change again, he isn’t stuck with outdated tags. Oyster Tracker will easily make the edit. Although Fagergren says “change is challenging,” he adds, “This has probably been the best business investment we made this year.”

Thanks to both Duane and Ted for doing amazing work and helping us continually improve our products.  

You can read the full articles at Aquaculture North America

 

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3 min read

Working with Distributors

By Chip Terry on Sep 25, 2020 3:06:40 PM

tagsAlmost every farm starts out selling to local restaurants, but as they scale distributors (aka wholesalers) play an increasingly important role. You will make more money per shell at a restaurant, but there is a limit to how much restaurants can buy. If you are producing more than a few local restaurants and some consumers can absorb, you are probably going to need to work with distributors.  We've been talking to a lot of distributors lately and here are some of the things farmers should know.

To start with, understand the different types of distributors 

Global full line distributors: The Syscos, US Food and others who sell everything to everyone. Unless you are huge they are unlikely to be your customer directly. 

National/regional seafood wholesalers Companies like Stavis, Inland Seafood and Samuel & Sons sell everything from swordfish and lobster to tuna and oysters. They do a lot of volume in shellfish, but it is a small part of their business. Many of them are quite interested in carrying a range of product, but they may not be near your farm.

Shellfish Specific players: There are folks in most major markets that focus on being great at shellfish.  Companies like Pangea, War Horse, and Hog Island know a ton about shellfish and are always looking for great product.  They love having boutique farms with a good story and often run the oyster program for restaurants in major metropolitan areas.

Local buyers: In almost every region there are folks who buy from local farmers/harvesters and then sell either to restaurants or other distributors.  Many of these folks are also farmers themselves and do this as a sideline. They can be the easiest to work with.  

So what should a farmer do?  

1) Find your potential buyers.  Unless you have a truck and a cooling system, you need to find someone who will either pick up at your farm or you can drop off at easily.  Take a look at the Interstate Shellfish Shipper's List. Any company that ships across state lines must be on this list.  If you are going further afield, you may need to work with a local reshipper who can get your product to the distributor.

2) Build a Few Relationships: Find a few distributors who serve different markets that you can work with for the long haul. Find the hole in their product line you can help fill (are you unique based on your location, cost, story?). Don't stretch yourself too thin. You need to invest in the relationships.  Don't get overly caught up in a few pennies more or less for the product.  Better to move a consistent amount every week.

2) Don't sell to their customers: When you have a distributor, be careful to not sell to their customers.  No one wants to be undercut by the farm at a key account.

3) Build a brand: Have a story that is unique and well told. Promise the consumer something unique: The taste of Maine.  A sweet Chesapeake oyster with an especially deep cup.  A pacific gem that has been tide tumbled. Easy to shuck oysters.

4) Be Reliable: Distributors and restaurants want consistent sellers. If your product is only intermittently available they can't build that following.

5)Have a clean consistent product: A product that shows up with clean shells and no dead animals. If something goes wrong fix it quickly.

6) Help them Help You: Many of the better distributors will want to bring chefs on tours, train staff and generally help position your product. Be available and helpful.  

Bottom Line:  Distributors play an important role and most farms work with them.  Treat them well and they will be your best allies.  

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2 min read

Shellfish Tagging: It Works

By Chip Terry on Sep 9, 2020 2:19:44 PM

We started thinking about shellfish tagging about a year ago. We were watching 

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folks waste valuable time filling out harvester/dealer tags, log books, and generally dealing with tons of paperwork.  After talking to a lot of farmers, dealers, regulators and reading the 487 pages of the Model Ordinance, we finally launched our tagging solution in March of 2020--right as every farm shut down for Covid.  Despite the headwinds of a global pandemic, we had 41 new clients in less than 6 months.

So what have we learned? 

1) Paperwork Sucks: Regulations exist for good reasons, but complying withImage from iOS (39) regulations is painful. No one became a farmer because they wanted to do paperwork. 

2) Most states are a little different:  despite the Model Ordinance most states have slightly different regulations (or interpretations of regulations). For example, Washington state wants you to collect water or animal temperature at harvest.  Florida wants to know what type of cooling you have.  Others want bulk tags handled differently. 

3) Paper is painful:  We (I) thought finding waterproof paper would be the easy part.  Turns out getting it on the right size rolls with the right perforation and in the right orientation is a lot harder than expected.  We sent 100s of useless rolls back to the factory. 

DSC00094The future is becoming more obvious.  Now distributors can scan in the tag information--saving them time and money.  The QR codes lets us pass extended information that folks always want but doesn't fit on the tag (say tasting notes or a farmer 

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profile).  We can also make farmer's lives easier by making it easier to do state filings and in the future printing invoices and other associated paperwork.  

 

 

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1 min read

Don't Share your Data with a Competitor

By Chip Terry on May 14, 2020 1:05:33 PM

When you work with us, your data is your data and we don't share it with anyone.  You can read our privacy policy and terms of service on the bottom of this website.  

Many farm manager systems run their own farms and invest in other farms in the US, Canada and Australia.  That means if you work with them you are sharing your data with a competitor.  

We do not invest in farms and we do not own a farm.  In other words, we are not in a conflicted situation.  Our goal is to make you successful.  That is why we are growing so fast.

Bottom line:  Make sure you ask if the company or the principals are owners/investors in other farms and have a conflict.  Most do.  

 

 

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1 min read

Zooming and Filtering: The Latest on Oyster Tracker

By Cat Ganim on Apr 9, 2020 1:07:12 PM

Despite all the craziness, our team has been focused on what we can control: improving our Farm Management software. 
 
We released our latest version last week.  This release is all about helping folks navigate more easily through the farm.  For example, we now include a global view of your farm with counts of all animals.  Image from iOS (25)
 
You can also now filter your results to find just the size, year class, equipment, or virtually any other data point that you are looking for. 

 

Finally, during this Covid outbreak we are not charging any of our clients for two months and we are offering 2 month free trials to anyone who wants one. Please tell your friends. :-) 

Thanks for all your support.  

Cat Ganim
Product & Operations
Oyster Tracker

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