Brevard Zoo Oyster Bagging Machine

Oyster Bagging Machine to Help Improve Indian River Lagoon Health

MELBOURNE, Fla.
January 13, 2017

A new and novel oyster bagging machine, developed by a group of Harris Corporation employee volunteers, will help boost efforts to restore and preserve the Indian River Lagoon.

The Brevard Zoo unveiled the machine Friday, demonstrating how it slashes the time it takes to fill individual bags with oyster shells. The bags serve as the foundation for new reefs placed in the lagoon through the zoo’s Restore Our Shores program.

The new machine combines a conveyer belt with chutes to automate a process traditionally done by hand. It reduces the bag-filling time from several minutes to under 10 seconds. Six volunteers can now do the job that used to take a team of 40. An individual oyster bag measures about one meter and weighs about 40 pounds. It takes about 2,400 bags to create a reef covering 1,000 linear feet.

“The use of oyster reefs is growing around the country as coastal communities learn more about the positive impacts of living shorelines. So this ingenious machine is not only going to allow us to redouble our efforts to help re-establish oyster beds and restore the lagoon, but could be used nationally” Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten said. “We are grateful to our Harris partners and these employees who volunteered to support a natural resource that is so important to our community.”

A team of six Harris employees donated a total of 270 hours to design and build the machine under the company’s Harris Employees Actively Responding Together (HEART) volunteer program. Nearly 3,000 employees have donated more than 40,000 hours in a wide variety of projects at Harris locations across the country under HEART.

“An opportunity like this is fulfilling on a personal level,” Harris volunteer team leader Ihosvany Garcia said. “Our group has been privileged with a chance to affect a crucial ecological change using our very own technological resources and expertise.”

Oysters, which used to be plentiful but now have small naturally occurring populations, are excellent for the lagoon because their filter feeding cleans the water. The waterway has been plagued by algae blooms and fish kills in recent years blamed on pollutants like lawn fertilizers and septic tanks as well as excess fresh water entering the brackish lagoon.

The Brevard Zoo has been working on oyster restoration in the lagoon for nearly a decade and has plans to continue the efforts. In November, voters in Brevard County overwhelmingly approved a new half-cent sales tax to fund lagoon restoration projects. While the details of those projects are still in the planning stages, oyster restoration is a cornerstone of the Brevard County Save Our Lagoon Project Plan crafted last year after algae blooms and fish kills occurred.

Harris was the first company to join the National Estuary Program’s Indian River Lagoon Innovators and Investors (IRL-I2) network. The company is dedicated to working with governments and groups to help improve the body of water, which stretches for 156 miles along Florida’s East Coast.

Brevard Zoo: Restore Our Shores
Brevard Zoo is home to more than 800 animals representing 180 species from all over the world. As a not-for-profit organization, it is a leader in the fields of animal wellness, education and conservation. More information is available at brevardzoo.org.

The Restore Our Shores program, formerly Brevard Oyster Restoration, is a locally lead effort to clean up the Indian River Lagoon by applying a “living shorelines” model throughout Brevard County. The team works primarily in two areas; oyster and mangrove restoration. Learn more at restoreourshores.org

Harris Corporation
Harris Corporation is a leading technology innovator, solving customers’ toughest mission-critical challenges by providing solutions that connect, inform and protect. Harris supports customers in more than 100 countries and has approximately $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 21,000 employees worldwide. The company is organized into four business segments: Communication Systems, Space and Intelligence Systems, Electronic Systems and Critical Networks. Learn more at harris.com.

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