Matt Nixon next to his prototype oyster-farming tank. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

The first oyster-farming facility of its kind in the world is coming to Bath.

The City Council last week approved the sale of a city-owned building on Town Landing Road along the Kennebec River to Matt Nixon, owner of Muddy River Farm Aquaponics. Nixon designed the world’s first 3D-printed, closed-loop, oyster-farming tank made from sustainable materials. It will be the city’s first business specializing in aquaculture, the production of aquatic life like shellfish or salmon under controlled conditions.

The building at 2 Town Landing Road in Bath that Matt Nixon purchased for his Muddy River Farm Aquaponics business. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

“Aquaculture is very much a growing industry in Maine,” said Emily Ruger, Bath’s director of community and economic development. “It’s highly important for our economic and environmental future. It will bring new tax revenue and high-wage jobs to Bath.”

Nixon’s patent-pending tank is a recirculating aquaculture system. It differs from typical systems in two key ways: It’s 3D-printed using sustainable wood byproducts and it doesn’t require ocean water to be piped in or out.

“This system is the first of its kind in the world,” said Nixon, who worked for the state Department of Marine Resources as a deputy director and is finishing up his doctorate in aquaculture from the University of Maine. The Topsham resident is also a member of the town’s Select Board.

Nixon takes oysters when they are small, about a half-inch, and places them in his tank to grow to near-market size in five months — a process that typically takes 2 1/2-3 years in the ocean. He mixes tap water with salt, calcium and a few other elements to mimic seawater, regulates the temperature and injects phytoplankton, oysters’ food source, to circulate over the shellfish. The oysters are then placed back in the ocean to finish growing and acquire the signature flavor of the region they’re from.


One advantage is Nixon can grow oysters in the winter when they’re usually dormant because of the cold sea temperatures and lack of phytoplankton. Another advantage is he can grow oysters as climate change becomes more of a problem. When the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, the water becomes more acidic, causing oysters to grow slower, with thinner shells. Nixon said he has heard anecdotally that some oyster farmers have been dumping pieces of shells on their oyster beds to raise the calcium content of the water and combat acidification.

“It’s like slapping a Band-Aid on an amputated limb,” Nixon said.

He partnered with Mere Point Oyster Company in Brunswick and tested his process on 250 oysters. When he gets his Bath facility up and running this fall, he plans on growing 20,000 oysters for Mere Point over the winter. He plans to scale up over the next few years and grow up to 18 million oysters a year.

Mere Point co-owner Dan Devereaux has high hopes Nixon’s system will help his company reduce costs. Devereaux compared oyster farming to running a car dealership.

“The longer the oyster sits on the farm before it goes to market, the costs go up,” said Devereaux, whose company sells about a million oysters a year. “The quicker the oyster can get out of your farm and out to the market, the better your margins will be. That’s the exciting part.”

Nixon said he plans to partner with other oyster farms, especially smaller ones that could benefit from lower production costs to grow bigger.


“It’s a win-win,” Nixon said. “There are a lot of people who have been waiting for something like this.”

Nixon’s 8-foot prototype tank was 3D-printed at the University of Maine, which has the largest 3D printer in the world, for a cost of only about $600. His production tank at the Bath facility, located at 2 Town Landing Road, is twice the size at a cost of about $1,000.

Nixon purchased the building for $350,000 and plans to make upgrades to the interior and exterior of the property. He currently has two employees and expects to hire two more in his first year of operation. He plans to acquire a 3D printer of his own as he scales his business.

“Muddy River farm is the first company in the state to use this business model, but I certainly won’t be the last given the trajectory of our marine resources industry as a whole and the problems compounding all working waterfronts in the state,” he said. “I look forward to many years working together to bring well-paying jobs, marine biotechnology and 3D manufacturing to the city.”

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