Former Manatee County service station transformed into Shellfish Hatchery

Piles of tires and mounds of debris once sat behind a former service station that has been transformed into a shellfish hatchery.

"This place had laid fowl for necessarily a decade. The ceiling was open when it rained outside. It rained in here. There was that much oil and oily waste on the bottom of the property," said Aaron Welch.

Aaron Welch with Two Docks Shellfish bought the property.

He spent the last year and a half transforming it into a hatchery to produce seed for clams and oysters.

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"We think there is an enormous amount of potential here for commercial farming and restoration work. That’s a big, beautiful bay out there. There’s a lot of spots we could raise oysters, and clams and sunrays," he said.

Two Docks Shellfish grows oysters and clams for local shellfish markets in Bradenton and the Tampa Bay area.

They serve 20 nearby restaurants, including Chiles Hospitality.

Congressman Vern Buchanan and Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge toured the facility on Wednesday morning.

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"I think Manatee County could be a bigger player in this region and have that kind of capability in the future. I think they have the background, the expertise, they’re hungry," said Congressman Buchanan.

Manatee County dedicated $500,000 to shellfish restoration and received a million dollars from the state.

Van Ostenbridge said the county will likely be working with Two Docks Shellfish soon.

"Hopefully, we will partner with them on a lot of our bivalve restoration projects," he said.

It doesn’t end there. Welch is working to transform another building on the property into a research building with Mote Marine. 

He’s also partnered with the University of Florida.

"This place is not what it will be, but it is a functioning hatchery. Come back in a year and it’ll be even better. Come back in three to five years and it’ll be a showpiece," Welch said.

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