FOR EXPERT COMMENT: Putting Worries About Shrimp Supply to Rest; Sustainable Seafood Production System Developed by MU Researcher
Aug. 28, 2013
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430
By Jerett Rion
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COLUMBIA, Mo. – Like other oceanic species, wild shrimp populations cannot keep up with seafood demand. However, worries about shrimp supply and sustainability of shrimp production may be unnecessary following the development of a sustainable and environmentally friendly seafood production system by a University of Missouri researcher that can produce a fresh crop of shrimp every 120 days.
David Brune, a professor of agricultural systems management at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, developed the seafood production system at MU’s Bradford Research Center. The paddlewheel-driven raceways for the production system, or concrete basins that are similar to what is used in trout hatcheries, hold about one-twentieth of an acre of water and are stocked with Pacific white shrimp that Brune is growing.
“A lot of the seafood that is eaten in today’s market is unsustainable,” Brune said. “In order to expand or sustain the seafood business, aquaculture is necessary.”
When raising shrimp, good water quality is vital for the survival of the shrimp. Brune’s system uses fast-growing microorganisms such as algae and bacteria to control water quality. These microorganisms remove ammonia from the water, and in the case of algae growth, provide oxygen. Paddle wheels keep the water moving at a constant rate, which insures uniform water quality. This high water quality allows Brune to keep his system well-stocked with shrimp.
“You can’t keep growing algae or bacteria in a closed system without providing an outlet for them,” Brune said. “Microbial biomass production is continually removed using brine shrimp, which are only 8 to 12 millimeters long. The brine shrimp consume or ‘harvest’ the algae and bacteria. Then we use the brine shrimp as food for our main product, the Pacific white shrimp, instead of just creating more waste.”
Brine shrimp can be used as a fish meal replacement to feed the Pacific white shrimp, or harvested and converted into a liquid fuel. Additionally, waste from the brine shrimp can be converted to produce methane, which could be used as power for the physical system. Other byproducts, such as concentrated nitrogen and phosphorus can be used as fertilizer. This creates a system that is environmentally friendly in a cost-effective way, Brune said.
While Brune has proven that shrimp can be grown locally, they do come at a greater cost than shrimp imported from other countries.
“It costs around $3 a pound to produce the Pacific white shrimp we are growing, which is the wholesale price for frozen shrimp that is imported from Asia,” Brune said. “We know that we can grow shrimp in a sustainable manner and in an environmentally friendly way. However, if we can’t produce them in a cost effective manner, then we aren’t going to be successful.”
Brune says he is working to demonstrate the technical success of the system and to make this process affordable to farmers.