Aquaculture Evolution

Why Here? Why Now?

In October 2022, Harmony Coast Aquaculture Institute metamorphosed from a dream to reality when it acquired the Abalone Farm Inc. and signed a long-term ground lease with the owners of the Alexander Ranch in Cayucos, California. 

The Abalone Farm, Inc. was founded in 1968 by a group of abalone enthusiasts on coastal ranch bluffs. AFI grew and marketed California red abalone until it ceased operating in 2019. AFI was the oldest and largest land-based marine aquaculture facility in the United States.

While the AFI business grew, California’s seven species of abalone were having an increasingly difficult time in the wild. As people flocked to California’s coast, recreational and commercial divers systematically mined wild abalone while global climate changes began warming and acidifying the ocean. Ocean acidification makes it difficult for shellfish to build their shells and leaves them vulnerable to new diseases. Wild abalone populations plummeted, with two species (white abalone and black abalone) listed as endangered, and the entire California abalone fishery closed indefinitely. 

Abalone are slow growers and they require specific conditions to successfully reproduce. HCAI will conduct research and help sustainable aquaculture businesses create ways to grow marine organisms in ways that help regenerate depleted ecosystems. 

We are partnered with other coastal organizations and agencies to support recovery plans for iconic California shellfish species, including white abalone. The plans contain recommendations for habitat restoration, education and citizen science programs so that someday, white abalone can be removed from the Endangered Species List – and maybe even return to the menu!


HCAI is a nonprofit organization that owns the aquaculture facility at Cayucos. We lease aquaculture space to other nonprofits that want to grow native California marine invertebrates and/or seaweed species for conservation, and to for-profit entities that want to grow seafood sustainably. We operate with funding from private and government agencies, donations and sponsorships, and proceeds from products sales and facility rental. For more information, please send an email to

Because of its location and size, the former Abalone Farm is ideally suited for HCAI’s purposes. Because of California’s strict regulation of coastal development, it would be extremely difficult, time consuming, and maybe impossible to recreate a similar facility elsewhere in California. It’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of at least one species of abalone depends on our success at HCAI! 

Accordion Content

Central Coast Aquaculture 

The rugged beauty of the Central Coast is the perfect backdrop for a new Center of Excellence in innovation, research, conservation, and education in land-based marine aquaculture. When you feast your eyes on the spectacular scenery, please remember the life-support systems underlying the natural beauty. They need our help!