Skip to comments.Freshwater Prawns Raised in Midwest
Posted on 09/09/2002 7:44:59 PM PDT by Willie Green
For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.
JONESBORO, Ill. (AP) There's not a beach or seaworthy boat anywhere near Bobby Boyd's house in the southern Illinois woods, but the 20,000 Malaysian prawns living in his ponds taste like they came out of the Pacific Ocean.
Boyd is one of a tiny but growing number of people in the Midwest raising the 6-inch crustaceans, once raised only in big hatcheries in the Deep South.
Since researchers discovered the prawns can grow in cooler climates, farmers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio have been dumping buckets of the half-inch juveniles into their ponds and raising them the few months to adulthood, netting as much as $4,000 an acre.
In Illinois, 27 farmers are raising prawns, triple the number of last year. The state's 40 acres will probably yield at least 20,000 pounds of prawns at $8 a pound, said Dan Selock, an aquaculture researcher at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Last year's nine acres generated a fraction of that.
``Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't tell me, 'You can't grow (prawns) in southern Illinois,''' said Boyd. ``We're showing them that you can, and you can make money.''
The former vegetable grower first learned of the crop two years ago in a newspaper article from Kentucky, where researchers from Kentucky State University in Frankfort spearheaded studies on the subject.
The United States imports about $4 billion more shrimp from other countries mostly in Southeast Asia than it exports, said James Tidwell, a researcher at Kentucky State.
Boyd dug a couple of ponds near his house and rigged two 10,000-gallon tanks in his garage out of parts of grain bins and swimming-pool liners to make a ``nursery.''
He fashioned a filter from quilt batting to clean the tanks of excrement, and Bob's Shrimp Farm was born.
``I call it that because no one around here knows what prawns are,'' he said. ``You say 'shrimp,' and they know what you're talking about.'''
A hatchery in Weatherford, Texas, sent some baby prawns in a cooler, and they lived in the indoor tanks until about 60 days old, when Boyd scooped them up in buckets and dumped them into the outdoor ponds for the summer.
Purina Mills Inc. of St. Louis sent a representative to discuss the animals' diet. It wasn't long before the country's largest animal-feed maker was pumping out Purina Freshwater Shrimp Chow, and Boyd had perched a homemade dispenser on the back of a riding lawnmower to spread the stuff in the ponds.
``We were responding to the growth of the industry in the Midwest,'' said Mark Griffin, director of zoology and aquatics for the feed-maker. ``There's no question the industry has seen major growth in the past couple of years.''
So far, Boyd and his fellow growers have sold their harvest to people who preorder or at local festivals, which have proven popular in the rural area where the closest thing to seafood has been mostly catfish, bass and bluegill.
Last year, Boyd sold all 1,000 pounds of his harvest at a party on harvest day. Some 350 people came to eat his jambalaya and kabobs, or to take their frozen prawns home on ice.
In West Texas, there are areas that have no fresh surface water and the wells yield saltwater.
Working with Texas A&M, some farmers discovered they could cultivate redfish -- a gamefish from the Gulf, which enjoys a high demand in area restaurants. Dig a hole, pump in some otherwise worthless saltwater, Voila!, a redfish farm.
I hope they succeed as well!
One of the other things that bothered me about this article is the amount of shrimp and related seafood that we import. (I remember seeing somewhere that we get a lot from Bangladesh, of all places. Doesn't seem right with the poverty and starvation that exists there.) And then there are the concerns regarding the unsanitary conditions under which this food is possibly raised.
Granted, I'm not wild about imports to begin with, but I get especially concerned over food supply. I basicly have no problems with trading for food items which cannot be produced withing our own climate/territory. And I have no problems sharing our excess abundance with those nations in need. But I strongly believe that food supply is one of those things that is in EVERY nation's best self-interest to be as self-sufficient as their climate/natural resources permit. I don't think we should be forcing other nations to accept our excess into their domestic markets just to satisfy the coffers of transnational trading companies, the same as I don't think imports should be undercutting our own farm production in certain commodities.
All right!! Maybe seafood will become a little more affordable. This is a good thing.
From the article and from what my advisor told me, they are actually raising the saltwater prawns in fresh water. Apparently, the prawns can adapt to either environment. The story that he told me is that a grad student in Florida was adding make-up water to his tank one Friday afternoon and forgot to turn off the water. Even recycle systems lose a great deal of water (and salt) to evaporation. I remember my tanks evaporating very quickly and leaving salt all over the lab. Every so often, new water and some salt must be added to the tank. He awoke about 2 in the morning on Monday morning and suddenly remembered that he had left the water running. At this point, he didn't bother to rush to the lab because the damage would have already been done.
When he arrived at the lab on Monday morning, he expected to find a tank full of dead shrimp. The water running out of the tank had gone into a drain, so it didn't make a mess. However, after almost three days of mixing fresh water into the tank, the tank water had almost no salinity. He turned off the water and looked in the tank. To his surprise, the shrimp were still alive. At this point, he decided to see how long they could live in fresh water. They lived to maturity, so many experiments now try to use fresh water for most of the life cycle.
The ability to use fresh water has revolutionized the application of mariculture (growing water critters in artificial environments). Previously, it was believed that every system would have to recycle most of the water to avoid having to make-up salt water constantly and dump blowdown salt water without contaminating natural streams. To make this work, researchers were looking for creative ways to deal with the shrimp waste. Using fresh water, mariculturists (shrimp farmers) can just dump the contaminated water on their tomatoes.
It's doesn't give tomatoes a "fishy" taste?
Well, I suppose shrimp droppings make just as good a natural fertilizer as any other manure.
The lawn is always greener over the septic tank!
That's what I would think, although I'm certainly no expert.
My guess is that the only problem with using "sewage" as a fertilizer is that excessive amounts facilitate the growth of "bad" germs. Used more sparingly or dilute, Nature can better convert the waste for use by plants without becoming a breeding cesspool for disease.
This one gets a "huh?" from me. Almost a "hold muh beer" moment.
Actually, this is how most fish hatcheries do it. It's kind of fun to watch them go along with something almost like a rotary fertilizer dispenser and see all the little fry boil up like pirhuanas (sp?) going after the food pellets.
Well raising emus didn't pan out, so it is kinda nice seeing farmers adapt to a more viable market.
BTW, Purina deserves some kudos as well for responding quickly to the farmers' needs in this niche.
Just came across an interesting, related AP story (untitled) on Yahoo! here.
KENNER, La. (AP) Shrimpers and officials from eight states agreed to keep working on plans for possible lawsuits against up to 16 countries accused of selling shrimp at below-market prices.
Shrimpers are considering suing China, Vietnam, Thailand and several Central and South American countries for allegedly dumping shrimp in the United States and damaging the domestic shrimp industry.
Industry representatives from Alabama, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana attended Monday's meeting in suburban New Orleans, as did government officials from several of the states.
The group decided to form a steering committee that will meet within two weeks and announce a decision on whether to hire lawyers and proceed.
Shrimping representatives have said they expect to spend about $1 million for preliminary work on the suits.
Successful lawsuits could result in new tariffs on imported shrimp and could be the first step toward import quotas.