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Tide to Table Profile: Holdfast Aquaculture

September 25, 2023

Planting seeds of change—Holdfast Aquaculture produces native seaweed and shellfish seed for farms in California.

A bearded man wearing a hat on a boat holds a freshly shucked oyster. Holdfast Aquaculture co-founder Nate Churches shucking an oyster. Credit: Holdfast Aquaculture

Holdfast Aquaculture fosters sustainability from the bottom of the food chain through seaweeds and shellfish, like oysters and mussels. Farming these species provides many benefits to the environment by filtering nutrients from water and providing habitat for marine life. And for farms to thrive, they need access to high-quality shellfish and seaweed seed.

That’s where hatcheries like Holdfast Aquaculture come in. This southern California-based hatchery grows seed for seaweeds and shellfish, specifically oysters and mussels, and specializes in Pacific Southwestern varieties and bringing new native species to aquaculture markets.

Co-founders Nate Churches and Diane Kim believe positive environmental change is possible when science is translated into action. “A strength our company brings to the table is that Diane Kim and I have a strong academic background, we’re ocean nerds,” said Churches.

Fostering the Next Generation

For long-term environmental change and food security, it’s not enough to just raise future generations of shellfish and seaweed. That’s why Holdfast is also investing in future generations of aquaculture farmers.

A person holds clumps of mussels in both hands over a blue tank.
Mussels grown from Holdfast seed. Credit: Holdfast Aquaculture

Holdfast Aquaculture has worked with AltaSea, a unique public-private ocean institute, to bring local middle and high schools, after-school programs, and aquariums together to educate young people about aquaculture. ”Getting young people to tangibly see what aquaculture brings [science] to a place they can understand,” said Churches.

In addition to working with younger students, Churches is developing a 2-year community college certificate program at Santa Monica College. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 50 years old, seeing a swimming larval oyster under a microscope can blow someone’s mind,” said Churches.

Sustainable growth in the domestic aquaculture industry is important for providing healthy and sustainable food in a changing climate. Expanding the public’s understanding of farming to include aquaculture, and the science that steers sustainability, is critical for meeting this goal.

From Tide to Table

A man gives the “hang loose” hand gesture while scuba diving underwater.
Holdfast Aquaculture founder Nate Churches on a dive. Credit: Holdfast Aquaculture

Holdfast Aquaculture is producing California seafood seed in California for Californians. They want to reduce the distance tasty seafood needs to travel for you to enjoy your meal! “[I want to] see oysters, mussels, seaweeds, and kelps grown in Los Angeles and delivered to restaurants right in San Pedro Beach,” said Churches.

The easiest way to reach someone’s heart is through their stomach, so Holdfast hosts “farm-to-table” cookout nights with local restaurants in San Pedro. Restaurant-goers are always interested to sample delicious oysters, mussels, and seaweeds that they already love, then learn about how they’re grown in their own community.

Aquaculture Fun Fact

The word “holdfast” refers to the structure that anchors seaweed to its substrate. These structures are incredibly strong and help the seaweed weather even the harshest of environmental conditions.

Recipe: Quick and Easy California Mussels


  • 1 pound local mussels
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 stick of butter
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • Garlic, onions, salt, and pepper to taste


  1. Add all your ingredients into a large pot.
  2. Steam them until the mussel shells open up.
  3. Serve with your favorite bread. You can't really mess up this recipe!

Sustainable Seafood from Tide to Table

The Tide to Table series profiles members of the aquaculture community who provide valuable jobs and increase access to fresh, sustainably sourced American seafood. Aquaculture is more than seafood production. It is about ecosystem stewardship, coastal communities, and economic opportunities.

Last updated by Office of Aquaculture on September 29, 2023