Hoopers Island Oyster Co. rolls out new equipment for high-production shellfish processors

Cambridge, Maryland, U.S.A.-based Hoopers Island Oyster Co. has launched new oyster handling equipment for high-production shellfish processors: the Hydraulic Bin Tipper and the Outfeed Tumbler Conveyor.

A developer of full-service aquaculture equipment, Hoopers Island Oyster Co.’s latest innovations “were designed in response to industry service, safety, and production issues identified by Hoopers and other oyster growers,” the company said in a press release.

The creation of the Hydraulic Bin Tipper was prompted by a request made by long-time Hoopers’ customer Wicomico Oyster Co. for a device that would help eliminate the need for manual tipping of heavy shellfish containers. The resulting tipper automates the transfer of these shellfish bins into/onto other processing lines, including hoppers, conveyors, and tumblers.

A free-standing, stainless steel unit, the Hydraulic Bin Tipper uses two hydraulic cylinders to lift the large, plastic shellfish totes weighing up to 1,500 pounds. The machine is portable and does not need to be anchored to the floor, thus making it “adaptable for any workspace,” Hoopers noted.

According to Hoopers Island Oyster Co. Managing Partner Ricky Fitzhugh, the tipper is believed to be the first American-made and -serviced machine of its type.

“I have an existing, stationary tipper that I purchased from another manufacturer that hasn't been as dependable as the equipment I’ve purchased from Hoopers Island," Little Wicomico Owner Myles Cockrell added. "So I approached the Hoopers team and asked if they could develop a tipper that is portable, serviceable and also has the ability to increase carrying capacity. Since receiving the Hoopers tipper, I couldn’t be more pleased with its efficiency and durability.”    

The Outfeed Tumbler Conveyor, meanwhile, is the first model of its kind in the U.S. “that can be configured with one or two portable conveyors that attach to the sides of a tumbler frame verses a standard end-of-unit position,” Hoopers explained. The conveyor can be integrated into Hoopers’ existing line of tumblers and can be modified to adapt to other models, the company said.

The machine features an outfeed unit that rest perpendicular to the tumbler, effectively eliminating the need to stop work to perform routine tub changes or to discharge the conveyor. Because the tumbler can operate continuously with the new machine installed, the number of oysters processed can increase from 300 tons to “tens of thousands,” Hoopers said.

“The conveyor increases speed and capacity,” Hoopers Island Senior Equipment Manager Chris Wyer said. “And it’s the only tumbler model to convey and bag oysters at an ergonomically correct height, helping to mitigate the risk of work-related injuries as the operator oversees production.”

The conveyor is aluminum-framed and can be operated outdoors, with Hoopers designing it to include enclosed, waterproof controls that are able to prevent electrical shortages while improving safety and dependability.  

“These machines are the latest in the line of innovative processing equipment developed by Hoopers Island based on observations from our own oyster farm and discussions held with other growers,” Fitzhugh said of both innovations. “Employee safety, efficient handling and dependable customer service, are critical to today’s high-volume shellfish-growing operations.”


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