Aquaculture for all

Shrimp delivered for giant experiment at Blue Ridge

US - Blue Ridge Aquaculture should know soon if its high density shrimp farming experiment will pay off.

Todd Blacher, center, hatchery manager of Blue Ridge Aquaculture work to acclimate the brood shrimp in plastic bags to the water at Blue Ridge.

“We’ll know in about six months how successful it will be” or nine months at the latest, said Bill Martin, company president.

If it turns out the way the company hopes, he said, the experiment will revolutionize shrimp farming and might have a “staggering” effect on the local economy, adding hundreds of jobs.

“It will simply change the way the world grows shrimp,” Martin said.

Last week, cartons containing plastic bags of brood shrimp were delivered via air freight to the company from the Oceanic Institute in Hawaii. They contained 120 shrimp, each about 8 to 9 inches long, that had been slightly sedated, Martin said.

The bags were placed in nine tanks at Blue Ridge Aquaculture slowly to acclimate the shrimp to the water, a process that took a couple of hours, Martin said.

“They’re doing extremely well,” he said Monday. “They are eating well.”

Usually, brood shrimp are fed blood worms, squid and similar food, Martin said.

“We’ve chosen not to do that. We don’t want to create problems” with food that comes from the ocean, he said. Instead, “we went straight to artificial food.”

That consists of a powder that is mixed into a substance the consistency of cake mix, which is formed into worm-like shapes and fed to the shrimp.

“If all goes well, we should have our first group of eggs within 30 days,” Martin said.

The 120 brood shrimp will produce tens of thousands of eggs, he said, adding that about three months after the eggs are hatched, he expects to have shrimp in the 25 to 30 shrimp per pound range. In contrast, premium shrimp are 16 to 20 per pound, and ultra shrimp are 12 to 14 per pound.

Each shrimp tank contains three individual tanks for small, medium and large shrimp, Martin said. The shrimp will be moved to each tank as they grow, he added.

The process, Martin said, “is a giant experiment.”

The company is investing about $3 million in its 30,000-square-foot facility to test this shrimp farming method, Martin said. That building in the Martinsville Industrial Park has been under construction for about nine months and should be finished within 60 days, he said.

During the next year, the company will work with Virginia Tech researchers on the USDA-funded study of various aspects of the shrimp operation, including nutrition and efficiency of production.

Source: Martinsville Bulletin