They may look like bunk beds on steroids, but a new shrimp production technology developed by a Texas AgriLife Research scientist near Corpus Christi promises to revolutionize how shrimp make it to our tables. The patent-pending technology, known as super-intensive stacked raceways, was created by Dr. Addison Lawrence at the Texas AgriLife Research Mariculture Laboratory at Port Aransas, who says the system is able to produce record-setting amounts of shrimp.
“These tanks require stringent control and supervision, 24/7 monitoring with computers tracking the shrimp,” he said. “But properly run, these systems can produce up to 1 million pounds of shrimp per acre of water, or two acres of land per year,” he said “That’s far superior to traditional shrimp farms in the U.S. that can produce only up to 20,000 pounds of shrimp per acre of water per year. In tropical countries that have year-round growing seasons, they can produce up to 60,000 pounds of shrimp per year.”
This breakthrough in aquafarming increases production by 15 to 50 times.
Dr. Addison Lawrence, left, points to the lower section of his super-intensive stacked raceway shrimp production system to Dr. Maurice Kemp, president of Royal Caridea. (AgriLife Research photo by Patty Waits Beasley)
“We’re able to produce jumbo size shrimp, each weighing 1.1 ounces, known as U15 shrimp, which gives us world record production of up to 25 kilograms of shrimp per cubic meter of water using either zero water exchange and/or recirculating water,” he said.
At this rate of production, Lawrence said commercial shrimp producers will have the potential to vastly increase their profit margins.
A world-wide license for the new technology has been awarded to Royal Caridea, headed by Dr. Maurice Kemp, president. Sub-licenses are being considered for other countries, including Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Germany, Czech Republic and Russia.
Lawrence is convinced the indoor system will decrease this country’s dependence on foreign shrimp and could even help alleviate world hunger.
In addition to contributing to a foreign trade deficit, imported shrimp also bring with them environmental and quality control issues, he said.
“They are grown in open ponds and treated sometimes with antibiotics banned in this country, creating a negative impact on wetlands and human consumption,” Lawrence said. “About 90 percent of sea life in the world spends some portion of their life in the wetlands, thus making wetlands essential for the sustainability of food from the oceans. Uncontrolled use of antibiotics creates its own problems for the wetlands and consumers. But because Thailand, India, Vietnam and other countries in the tropics can grow two or three crops of shrimp per year compared to just one crop in the U.S., it’s hard to compete.”
Until now, Lawrence added.
A prototype of the new system has been constructed in a darkened room just feet from its creator’s office. The shrimp grow in four columns of raceways stacked four high. These raceways are long tubs with circulating water of only 5- to 7-inches average depth. As the shrimp develop, they are transferred to a raceway below. Baby shrimp are added to the top raceway, while the more mature shrimp in the lower raceways are harvested.
“We’ll construct a facility of about 70,000 square feet, hire 15 to 20 people, some of them with advanced degrees, and produce shrimp year-round. We expect to produce some 835,000 pounds of shrimp per year,” he said.
“Also of significance is that this technology will allow shrimp farms to be built inland in proximity to major metropolitan areas and provide live, fresh-dead and fresh-frozen shrimp on a daily basis,” Kemp added.
Lawrence said based on high growth rates and high survival and production levels, economic data shows an estimated rate of return of 25 percent to 60 percent.
“There are no disease problems; it’s biosecure. So, with predictable high internal rates of return, the system is economically viable. But the best part is, it’s totally organic with high-quality protein available every day of the year.