In general, it is difficult to find grants to start and operate aquaculture operations. However, in Maryland there are several specialty loan programs designed for shellfish aquaculture operations. In addition, the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) offers loan programs for all types of agriculture, including aquaculture operations.

Contact Matt Parker ( with questions.

Loan Programs

USDA Programs


The USDA Farm Service Agency offers loans to help farmers and ranchers get the financing they need to start, expand or maintain a family farm.

Find information on current interest rates, types of loans, and use their Farm Loan Discovery Tool to find the terms that are right for you.

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The Maryland Agricultural & Resource Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO) is a quasi-public economic development organization chartered by the State of Maryland and headquartered in Annapolis. Its mission is to help Maryland's (typically small and family-owned) farm, forestry, and seafood businesses to prosper through the provision of targeted financial and other services that helps retain existing resource-based industry production and commerce, promote rural entrepreneurship, and nurture emerging or expanding agricultural enterprises.

Loan Programs

Maryland Shellfish Aquaculture Financing Fund

In partnership, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and MARBIDCO provide affordable financing to watermen and other parties who want to start or expand commercial shellfish aquaculture operations in Maryland. UME is also contributing to this effort by providing training and business planning assistance to current and prospective shellfish growers. This loan features interest only payments and partial principle forgiveness.

Loan proceeds can be used to purchase shell, seed, spat or equipment (depending on the source of funds). Both bottom culture and water column (cages or floats) projects are eligible.

Maryland Remote Setting Shellfish Aquaculture Financing Fund

Working in collaboration with DNR and using Maryland Port Administration (MPA) funds, this program provides affordable financing to commercial watermen who want to start or expand shellfish remote setting (nursery) aquaculture operations. This loan features interest only payments and partial principle forgiveness

The nursery grower purchases larvae from a hatchery and places it in a tank containing cultch for the larvae to set on. Spat on shell setting systems consist of a tank, pump, piping and valves, and a blower to provide low pressure air to circulate larvae during setting. Seed (larvae), shell (substrate), and tank heaters (during cooler months) are also needed.

SMADC Programs



Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Corporation's (SMADC) purpose is to support farms and the future of agriculture in Southern Maryland. They are committed to expanding and promoting a viable and profitable agricultural farming community in Southern Maryland. While the primary focus is on the five southern Maryland counties of Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s, many of its initiatives reach statewide.

SMADC provides vision, support, grants, and marketing & promotion to area farmers. As new farm economies are being formed, SMADC helps to streamline regulations and reduce obstacles.

Southern Maryland Revolving Loan Fund for Agricultural & Shellfish Aquaculture Producers

SMADC has partnered with MARBIDCO to provide enhanced and new financing opportunities to Southern Maryland farmers by providing funds for MARBIDCO programs.

The Southern Maryland Revolving Loan Fund for Agricultural Producers is a loan program designed exclusively for Southern Maryland applicants. Loans amounts range from $10,000 – $20,000 to:

  • Purchase livestock and/or enhance existing herds and flocks, and for the foundation and expansion of shellfish aquaculture.
  • Incubate the production of small fruits and hops and increase acreage by existing small fruit growers.
  • Upgrade for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce in line with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
  • Purchase value-added processing equipment and related professional services.
  • Enhance the foundation and expansion of the region’s equine (horse) farm industry.