Georgia's first floating-cage grown oysters reach restaurants in major milestone

Oyster Harvest


Public Information Officer
Coastal Resources Division

Perry and Laura SolomonIn Chatham County’s Bull River, where salt marshes meet the Atlantic breeze, a culinary revolution is underway. Tybee Oyster Company, founded by the dynamic husband-and-wife duo Perry and Laura Solomon, is making waves as the first company in Georgia to harvest and sell farm-raised oysters grown in innovative floating cages. With a remarkable haul of 10,000 oysters in December 2023, Tybee Oyster Company is not just cultivating shellfish, they are cultivating a unique taste of Georgia’s coastal bounty.

Perry Solomon, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, brings a distinctive perspective to the table. 

“What’s driving this oyster renaissance around the country right now is the demand for a handcrafted, local product that tells a story,” he remarked. “And what tells that story better than a local oyster that tastes like the place that it’s from.” 

The Solomons emphasize the individuality of their oysters, noting that the same oyster seed grown in different regions yields oysters with distinct flavors, textures, and characteristics. It’s a testament to the taste of the sea, echoing the farm-to-table ethos that defines the contemporary culinary scene.

Laura Solomon, a full-time educator at the Tybee Maritime Academy, described Tybee Oyster Company’s meticulous cultivation process--intricate journey from seed to harvest. 

“Basically, it’s just a big sorting game,” she quipped. 

The oysters start as tiny seeds, a mere 2 millimeter in size, and go through a series of carefully managed growth stages. The Solomons employ mesh bags with different sizes of diameters of screen to ensure optimal density and water flow, resulting in oysters that are not just delicious, but aesthetically pleasing as well.

OystersTybee Oyster Company’s approach isn’t just about culinary excellence, Perry Solomon said, it’s about sustainable and efficient farming practices. He highlights the significance of their unique floating cages, which have transformed the oyster farming landscape. In the past, Georgia oysters were primarily harvested from wild beds, yielding delicious product, but not the aesthetically desired single-cup oysters sought by restaurants. In 2019, with guidance and technical assistance from CRD, the Georgia Legislature passed House Bill 501, which paved the way for growers to use floating cages on subtidal state leases to grow single-cup oysters. 

The Tybee Oyster Company holds one of the first six leases made possible under the law, and became the first oyster grower to be fully operational last summer. The Solomons opted to use flippable cages and specialized equipment, which they say has resulted in a process that is streamlined and accessible to individuals of all ages.

 “We’ve got people in their 60s and 70s helping us on the farm,” Perry Solomon said. “Our friends and neighbors are going down to Brunswick, getting their harvester training (from CRD), and coming out to help us. We made this a low-impact type of workflow that pretty much anyone can get on the water to do.”

The environmental impact of their oyster farming is another feather in Tybee Oyster Company’s cap. Perry Solomon enthusiastically details how oysters contribute to the ecosystem, acting as nature’s custodians by cleaning up to fifty gallons of water per day for each oyster. It’s not just a business for the Solomons--it’s a mission to improve the coastal environment.

Laura Solomon also thinks there may be an added benefit to visitors of Georgia’s coast, and not only for their taste buds.

Oysters“There’s a long list of benefits, but I think one of the ones that Georgia’s going to wake up to is the tourism benefit,” she said. 

As the Solomons envision it, the pristine waters of Georgia’s coast, enriched by their oyster farming, could become a tourist magnet. In the future, they hope people, eager to witness the oyster cultivation process firsthand, will flock to the Georgia coast. The Solomons believe that this immersive experience will add a new dimension to coastal tourism, providing visitors with an opportunity to connect with nature and savor the freshest oysters straight from the source.

The couple is not just in the business of oyster farming; they are pioneering a movement that blends culinary excellence, sustainable practices, and community engagement. While they are far from the first to harvest oysters on the Georgia coast, they are building their business on the previous successes of other oyster growers who helped pave the way--and appetite--for the Georgia variety oyster.

Perry Solomon summed it up succinctly, “It’s pretty much a plus one all around.” Tybee Oyster Company’s success isn’t just about a bountiful harvest, it’s about cultivating a taste of Georgia’s coastal essence--one oyster at a time. As they continue to redefine the possibilities of oyster farming, the Solomons are undoubtedly making waves in both culinary and environmental circles, helping to build an industry that goes beyond the plate.

Photo Gallery (photos courtesy of Stayce Koegler)