Marshall Cove Mussel Farm, owned by island residents Josh and Shey Conover, was the subject of a video released by the Maine Aquaculture Association Dec. 5, the second in a series of videos about its members the MAA is producing.

According to an MAA press release, "the videos tell the stories of aquatic farmers in Maine, underscoring how aquaculture complements existing marine industries and works to diversity and strengthen our coastal economy."

The Conovers started Marshall Cove in 2016, Shey Conover said in an interview. She explained that it takes 18 to 24 months for mussels to grow from seed to the point where they can be harvested and sent to market. She said they expect to harvest around 200,000 pounds of the mollusks this year.

Josh has long enjoyed working on the water, she said, having fished for lobster since he was 10 years old. When the couple bought Islesboro Marine in 2013, he had been researching aquaculture at the same time that Shey was working at the Island Institute in Rockland helping other people start aquaculture businesses, she said. So getting into the business of farming mussels was a natural supplement to what they were already doing.

To get started in aquaculture, the Conovers took part in the Island Institute program that Shey had been working in, and secured two leases through the state — one of 6 acres and one of 4 acres — as well as going through the state licensing process. Shey now works full-time at the boatyard and the mussel farm, she said, and of the 10 boatyard employees, five also work on the mussel farm.

The mussels are grown from seed, which is collected in the spring, on long ropes hung from 40-by-40-foot steel rafts, Shey said. Three of Marshall Cove's nine rafts are used to collect seed, which is then transferred to six other rafts to grow to maturity. The farm sells directly to some restaurants in the Midcoast, and also to wholesale distributors in Maine and New England, she said.

The video has been a good tool for distributors, including some as far away as Boston, to show to potential customers, she said, so they can see the aquaculture operation and know where the mussels they are buying come from. In addition, she and Josh have had good response to the video from fellow islanders.

Both the boatyard and the mussel farm are year-round businesses, Shey said, with Marshall Cove now at the point of being able to harvest mussels all year. Aquaculture gives the Conovers a way to diversify and add another income stream.

"We're on the growth curve, as far as our production," she said. "We're actively growing our sales and distribution network." And as that growth continues, the business may add employees.

The video came about because the Conovers got to know MAA Executive Director Sebastian Belle, and when the organization was developing the video series, he got in touch with them. "We're always happy to tell our story," Shey said.

She expressed appreciation for the help she and her husband have gotten from others in the industry and said she would encourage others who enjoy working on the water to consider getting into aquaculture. "I think aquaculture has huge potential. It's exciting to see the growth in the industry."