Ethanol industry could feed potential for shrimp farming

By Tim Hoskins
Iowa Farmer Today; December 5, 2007

AMES — The ethanol industry could spawn another ag industry in the Midwest.

That new industry is shrimp farming.

“The opportunity is huge,” says Hank Harris, Iowa State University animal science professor.

Cheryl Shew, global shrimp sales specialist for Zeigler Brothers a feed company in Gardners, Pa., says people are raising shrimp indoors in Michigan, Indiana and up-state New York.

Harris, who’s specialty at ISU has been pork diseases, conducted shrimp research with graduate student Dusty Loy.

Loy has been studying feeding pellets made with dried distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol production, to shrimp. He worked with Zeigler Brothers to develop pellets that contained 20 and 40 percent distillers grains.

Loy conducted a feeding trial using the pellets with distillers grains. The feeding study is not complete. However, they have some general observations.

It is feasible to include distillers grains in shrimp food, says Loy.

“The pellets work, and shrimp eat it,” Loy says.

In general, he says there were some problems with the stability of the pellets that had 40 percent distillers grains.

“At 40 percent, we couldn’t get the shrimp to grow,” Loy notes.

However, the shrimp did grow when fed lower rates of distillers grains.

James Tidwell, chairman of the Kentucky State University Aquaculture Program, also has conducted studies feeding distillers grains to shrimp. He confirms Loy’s observations.

“In general, you can go 20-30 percent (distillers’ grains) pretty easy,” he says.

He says lysine becomes a limiting factor in feeding distillers grains at higher levels.

In addition, he says if the distillers grains were dried too much, it could affect the vitamins available to shrimp.

Loy and Harris say distillers grains could replace part of the soybean meal and fishmeal in the shrimp’s diet.

When looking at the costs of feeding shrimp, the price for fishmeal is increasing and is one of the most expensive parts of the diet.

While fishmeal demand is up, supplies continue to decline. That has led to higher fishmeal prices.

With distillers grains and soybean meal replacing some of the fishmeal, that could be a factor in making the Midwest a good spot to raise shrimp.

The industry is looking at dried plasma, a by-product from the meatpacking industry, to be added to shrimp diets. Since there are many packers in the Midwest, Harris says it could help make the Midwest an area for the shrimp feed source.

Harris, who started in shrimp research by trying to control diseases, says Midwest shrimp confinements could offer a disease advantage.

He explains most shrimp are raised along the coasts in ponds. The water used in the production is ocean water.

Harris says confinement shrimp production uses fresh water with added sea salt. That could minimize disease problems in raising shrimp.

While there are production benefits, there are also some marketing advantages to shrimp production in the Midwest.

Loy and Harris say at the moment, shrimp farmers can get one or two crops per year. However, the confinement system could mean a year-round crop for farmers.

Loy says some shrimp buyers are willing to pay a premium to guarantee a year-round supply.

At the moment, he says most shrimp is sold frozen, especially in the Midwest. The location of Midwest production could mean fresh shrimp, for which some consumers will pay a premium.

“People may prefer the fresh product,” Harris says.

In addition, most shrimp farms have a difficult time raising 25- to 30-gram shrimp.

“It is not hard for us to get 30-gram shrimp,” Harris notes, adding the larger shrimp also command a higher price.