Captain Trevor Bonniville harvests oysters on his boat, Guinea Girl, on the Rappahannock River. Photo courtesy of BayDirect.

Va. App Matches Bay Seafood Sellers & Customers

“Think about it like a dating app” is the attention-getting phrase on the BayDirect website. But instead of picking a potential love match, this app lets you pick fresh local food and produce on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula.

According to the website, this new app will connect consumers with “a fisherman, waterman, restaurateur, farmers’ market and other businesses.” Lewis Lawrence, the Executive Director of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission, has been familiar with apps that connect seafood vendors to customers for a decade.

An app called FishLine has been used to connect watermen to customers throughout the United States. Lawrence had already been in contact with the FishLine app developer when the COVID pandemic hit. “The
pandemic had a crippling impact on the ability of my local seafood and agricultural producers to sell products,” he said.

The BayDirect app is a quick way to connect with local sellers, especially important during the pandemic. Courtesy image.

Lawrence knew a direct buying and selling app would literally save businesses throughout the Middle Peninsula. Funding from GO Virginia and other sources allowed the Planning District Commission and the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority to move forward, adapting the FishLine app for the local area. The result is BayDirect.

Stephanie Heinatz, managing partner at Consociate Media, has been working on and testing the app for several months. She echoes Lawrence’s comments that the COVID pandemic devastated many local businesses on the Middle Peninsula. It created an urgent need for a way to connect sellers and buyers.

“The app is very easy to use. It supports the eat-local movement. As a buyer, you will be able to search for food by type, or you can simply see what is available nearby using location functions on smartphones. There is also a website for those that don’t want to use a smartphone,” she said.

You can use the app to plan ahead. If you are sailing into Deltaville, you can check beforehand to see what will be available when you arrive. In addition to simply shopping and selling, the app will provide guides on seafood buying, highlighting what is in season at any particular time of year.

Restaurants, farmers, and watermen will be sharing favorite family recipes. And it’s free.

According to Heinatz, the response from individuals who have been testing the app has been nothing but positive. BayDirect is getting ready to go live any day now—get the latest updates at baydirectva.com.. The app will be available for both Apple and Android systems.

-Kendall Osborne