Precision Aquaculture (Robotics)

New technologies have revolutionized the agricultural landscape over the past several decades, improving yield and efficiency while decreasing cost and labor. However, on-bottom oyster aquaculture practices have remained relatively unchanged since the 1800’s. In this integrated project, an innovative smart sustainable shellfish aquaculture management (S3AM) framework is used to achieve long-term goals of enhancing nationwide shellfish farm production, preserving environmental heath, sustaining economic viability of shellfish farm operations, and enhancing quality of life for farmers and society as whole.

This program integrates an interdisciplinary team with expertise in Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, Environmental Science, Economics and Aquaculture from the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific regions to pursue five supporting objectives through research, education, and Extension activities. These include 1) Developing enabling technologies and management solutions for the S3AM framework to improve farm productivity and profitability in coastal regions nationwide. 2) Validating the S3AM in the laboratory and through farm trials in the three coastal regions. 3) Modeling and assessing the economic impacts of the proposed S3AM framework. 4) Integrating knowledge generated from the S3AM into education and outreach activities to prepare future generations of workforce to address globally pressing issues of sustainability. 5) Building a nationwide extension network to engage stakeholders, disseminate the S3AM, and assess its short, medium, and long-term outcomes.

The project entails a system-based approach to develop and implement new technologies and management practices that address the imperative shellfish aquaculture industry needs and to identify economic barriers and opportunities, leading to significantly improved farming efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Current program status and future outlook will be discussed.

Articles/News Releases

  • Blue ROV collecting data for the dataset graphic

    'OysterNet' + underwater robots will aid in accurate oyster count

  • Oyster Illustration by Keith Negley

    To Revive an Age-old Fishing Industry, Can Smart Tech Bring Solutions to the Table?

  • Seafood company owner Casey Todd (steering boat) prepares to dump tens of thousands of oyster shells near Crisfield, Md., to help young oysters thrive on the Chesapeake Bay bottom.

    The Modern Battle for Maryland’s Oysters

  • A child puts together a kit underwater ROV

    Flying Underwater Towards Stem Careers

  • An underwater photo of ROV

    Using Underwater Robots to Detect and Count Oysters

  • An underwater drone spotlights oyster shells in a tank at the Horn Point laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Through the use of “machine learning,” researchers hope to get the device to “see” through murky Bay water to identify live oysters on the bottom and find favorable spots to plant more.

    In Chesapeake oysters' future: underwater drones, shellfish barges?

  • Members of the research team working together in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster imaging and dredging testing. Credit: Yang Tao/University of Maryland

    Maryland-led, Multi-institutional Research Team Receives $10M to Transform Shellfish Farming with Smart Technology

  • A photograph of oysters

    Transforming Shellfish Farming with Smart Technology and Management Practices for Sustainable Production

  • Underwater ROV in water

    Engineering the Future of Shellfish Agriculture Through Robotics and More


The Maryland 4-H LEGO Robotics Challenge has 4-H members build robots using parts from the LEGO Mindstorms NXT, EV3, SPIKE Prime and/or RCX kits. The challenge is run on a 4’ X 4’ table where robots start in a home base area and then travel autonomously throughout the board, completing predetermined tasks. Robots are preprogrammed and score points as they complete tasks within a 2.5-minute time frame. The tasks for 2022 focus on sustainable shellfish production and the missions include planting oysters, collecting and delivering spat and shells, harvesting oysters, and turning on a water valve.