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Harvey Persyn

The First Person to Stock Hatchery
Produced Penaeus vannamei

 

 

Shrimp News: Where did you go to college, what did you major in, when did you graduate, and what was the highest degree that you attained?

 

Harvey Persyn: I graduated from Texas A&M in 1965 with a major in wildlife and fisheries.  I was in the Corps of Cadets and received my BS degree along with a commission as an Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army.  Next, I attended Artillery School and applied for Helicopter School.  After completing nine months of aviation training, I was soon off to Vietnam for a one-year assignment, where I flew helicopter missions over the Mekong Delta, never guessing that some day that entire coastline would be covered with shrimp farms.

 

Shrimp News: What was your first job?

 

Harvey Persyn: My first job after the Army was flying helicopters for the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico.  The seashore must have been my destiny.  I spent a year servicing oil-drilling operations in the Gulf.  Based in Freeport, Texas, I was spending all my spare time taking flying lessons in airplanes to get the necessary ratings to become an airline pilot.

 

One day, on a lark, I pulled into the parking lot of Dow Chemical Company in Freeport and applied for a job.  I took a chemistry test and an IQ test, and Dow wouldn’t let me leave the building without considering a job offer.  Before the day was over, I was working for Dow in its Process Research Division, where they were developing techniques to continuously produce epoxy resin.  This was fascinating work, and I learned a lot of practical chemistry during that year.  Working with pumps and piping diagrams was great training for designing shrimp hatcheries.

 

Shrimp News: What was your first job in shrimp farming?

 

Harvey Persyn: After assisting with the start-up of a full-scale epoxy resin plant, I heard about a shrimp farming project that Dow had started.  Dow had hired Harry Cook to head up the project.  Harry deserves the title of “Father of Shrimp Farming in the Americas” for his pioneering work in the 1960s, developing larval rearing techniques for penaeid shrimp while at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Galveston.  I interviewed for a job at the shrimp farming project—got it—and that started my career in shrimp farming.

 

Back in the 1930s, a Japanese biologist named Motosaku Hudinaga was the first person to rear and describe the larval stages of penaeid shrimp.  In a research paper, he outlined his techniques for raising shrimp larvae.  It was practically the only publication available on the topic in the early 1970s.

 

At Dow, Harry established a hatchery, a feed evaluation lab and a few small ponds at a facility located in an abandoned control room of the Ethyl Dow Corporation.  Ethyl gasoline was made with ethylene di-bromide until someone figured out that it was a bad idea.  The bromine was extracted from sea water, so we had this big sea water canal and an abandoned parking lot that we converted into shrimp ponds.  We chartered a shrimp trawler to catch gravid (with eggs) females, then spawned and reared them in the hatchery.  Once we had postlarvae (referred to as PLs, when they first resemble miniature shrimp), we stocked them into our ponds.  We also sent PLs to the first shrimp farm in Latin America, located near San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on the Caribbean coast, and we supplied PLs to Texas A&M’s shrimp farming project, located nearby in Angleton, Texas, as well as to a Texas Parks and Wildlife marine research station near Palacios, Texas.

 

Not knowing what to feed the shrimp, we tried anything that was available, such as trout feed and catfish feed.  On a whim, we tried Ralston Purina’s Cat Chow because it said “tuna flavor” on the box.  Purina Cat Chow turned out to be a great shrimp feed!  We called Purina and asked if they would make us some sinking diets based on their Cat Chow.  This sparked Purina’s interest in shrimp farming, and it soon launched its own shrimp farming project.

 

Shrimp News: Tell me a little bit about the Ralston Purina project and how you got a job there?

 

Harvey Persyn: In 1971, in Crystal River, Florida, Purina established its shrimp farming research facilities between the inlet and outlet canals of the Florida Power Corporation, which today is part of the Progress Energy Corp.

 

Bill More, formerly the head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife facility in Palacios, was selected to head up the project.  He put together a team of biologists and designed and built the facilities.  He brought along Mel McKey from Palacios to help design and build the facilities.  Then, he hired Yosuke Hirono and David Drennan from the University of Miami shrimp farming project.  Ron Staha was acquired from the Galveston Lab of the NMFS as an algae specialist.  Bill also hired Padge Beasley as pond manager.

 

The reason for setting up the project at this location was to use the heated discharge water from the power plant to keep the temperature up during the winter months.  The facility had 18 ponds as well as a large building for hatchery and diet research.

 

Ralston Purina established a Mariculture Division, headed up by Dennis Zensen.  He had formerly run Purina’s tuna processing plant in Ecuador and was now head of New Ventures for Purina.  We were fortunate to have this very aggressive and intelligent businessman to head up our project.

 

In February 1972, I attended the 2nd Annual World Mariculture Society meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I met Dennis Zensen and Dr. Bill MacGrath (at the time a nutritionist with the specialty chows division at Purina).  Dennis offered me a job, and I joined Ralston Purina in April 1972 as hatchery manager.  I left Dow and joined Purina because I correctly assumed that Ralston Purina, with its keen interest in agriculture and feed manufacturing, would more likely follow through on its shrimp farming project.

 

Shrimp News: The early years at Ralston Purina must have been really exciting.

 

Harvey Persyn: They were heady days of discovery!  We started off with an ambitious plan to work on all fronts—nutrition, maturation, hatchery and growout.  We had the facilities and the personnel to do the job and the backing of a strong company with good leadership and vision.

 

Since I already had some experience at Dow testing diets, we used the same kind of fiberglass tanks we used at Purina, off-the-shelf chemical toilet tanks.  We set up 100 tanks in two climate-controlled rooms.

 

One of the early studies we did was to test water exchange rates.  To our great surprise, the tanks with the least water exchange produced the best results.  We usually ran about eight replications on each diet formula, so we could test twelve feed formulations at a time.  A trial would last 60 days.  The diets were hand-made in the laboratory, based on formulations from Dr. MacGrath.

 

We used aquariums to test the attractiveness of feed.  When you first drop a morsel of food into an aquarium with shrimp, their first three sets of legs start to quiver with excitement.  Then, they proceed directly to the food, grasp it with their feet (where their taste buds are located), and stuff it into their mouths.  If they don’t like it, they drop it.  Shrimp are messy eaters, and a lot of feed is wasted.

 

We ran some tests with tracer dyes in the pellets.  To our surprise, the feed passed completely through the shrimp in less than 30 minutes.  They couldn’t possibly digest the pellet in such a short time.  That helped us figure why shrimp grew best with little or no water exchange.  They were eating their feces, which would become infused with nutritious bacteria once it hit the water.  They would also eat the bacterial floc that formed in the water.  Undigested fragments of grain became the nucleus of the floc, which was then invaded by filamentous bacteria, fungi and other small organisms.  Floc also acts as a mini bio-filter, serving to detoxify nitrogenous wastes.

 

In one experiment, we added sugar to the tanks and demonstrated that it stimulated the growth of bacteria that the shrimp would eat.

 

Shrimp News: In what year did Purina determine that Penaeus vannamei was the best species for farming?

 

Harvey Persyn: In the early 1970s, we started out with species caught in the Gulf of Mexico.  One of our biologists, David Drennan, was raised in the Republic of Panama, and he knew about the giant shrimp species that could be caught there, especially P. occidentalis, which made up about half the wild catch.  He went to Panama to set up a small facility to spawn and hatch shrimp and then leased a trawler to catch gravid females.  David caught gravid females, hatched their eggs and shipped the nauplii to our hatchery in Crystal River, Florida.  One of our objectives was to evaluate as many species of shrimp as possible.

 

In May 1972, I went to Panama to assist David with the sourcing operations.  He had been focusing on P. occidentalis and P. stylirostris, on the assumption that their large size and natural abundance would be key to their usefulness in shrimp farming.

 

While on the trawler, we caught a number of other shrimp species, one of which was P. vannamei.  It had been overlooked because it was rare and smaller than some of the other species.  Being curious biologists, we took one gravid vannamei back to the lab and spawned it.  Its nauplii were different; they had a red spot and stubby legs.  I had planned to leave that day, so I took those nauplii back to Crystal River.

 

After Ron Staha and I reared the vannamei to postlarvae, we had to do a lot of convincing to get permission to stock some in a pond.  A tenth-of-an-hectare pond was stocked with 25,000 PLs at Crystal River in early June 1972.  We harvested the pond in early October after 120 days.  Amazingly, we got a yield of 4,400 kg/ha of 18-gram shrimp—without aeration—and with very high survivals.

 

The remainder of the vannamei PLs were sent to Dr. Jack Parker at Texas A&M’s experimental shrimp farm near Corpus Christi.  He obtained similar spectacular results.

 

Shrimp News: What happened after this discovery?

 

Harvey Persyn: Dennis Zensen, our leader, was very excited about this breakthrough discovery and recognized right away that we had an exploitable business opportunity.  He started looking around the company for cash and possible countries where Purina would be willing to invest.  He immediately sent Bill More to Brazil to find a site for an experimental shrimp farm.  The Purina subsidiary in Brazil had the resources and was looking for an export item.  Bill negotiated a deal with the government to locate a pilot shrimp farm on a prison island near Recife.  By December 1972, prisoners were hand-digging ponds.  The prisoners were ecstatic to have some important work to do and got extra pay for their work.

 

By early 1973, we had identified two promising species, vannamei and stylirostris, and had stocked them into the ponds.  We were convinced that there had to be other species from Brazilian waters that would be good candidates for farming.  Yoshi Hirono started fishing operations for gravid females in southern Brazil.  He spawned them and then sent the nauplii back to Crystal River.  To our disappointment, none of the Brazilian species turned out to be good candidates for farming, but vannamei and stylirostris performed very well in the ponds.

 

This led to the inevitable conclusion that we had to move the shrimp farm to Panama because that’s where we were catching gravid vannamei and stylirostris.  David Drennan located a huge tract of land near Aguadulce, Panama.  In early 1974, Fritz Schwartz and Dennis Zensen negotiated a contract for a long-term lease on a large tract of barren salt flats that looked ideal for pond construction.  Fritz coined the name for the company, “Agromarina de Panama”.  A hatchery site was located just outside the Canal Zone near Panama City.  The first 80 hectares of ponds were constructed and put into operation before the end of 1974.  David Flushing and Mel McKey were in charge of farm construction.  Bill More moved to Panama as general manager.  Ron Staha went to Panama to supervise the construction and operation of the hatchery.

 

Shrimp News: When did you start working on breeding shrimp in captivity?

 

I remained in Crystal River as the research facility manager.  I reported to Bill MacGrath who was the overall shrimp project manager, working from Purina headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.  There was still much work to be done, looking at other species from around the world, diet development, hatchery improvements, intensive shrimp farming in tanks and the possibility of bait shrimp farming.

 

Soon after starting the pilot project in Panama, it became apparent that we would not be able to support a large operation using trawler-caught vannamei.  We immediately started a project to mature and spawn shrimp in captivity.

 

Based on a publication that said removing the eyestalks of female crayfish caused their ovaries to develop, we decided to try this technique on penaeid shrimp.  Glands in the eye stalks secrete a hormone that inhibits ovary development.  At first we removed both eyes, which caused the ovaries to mature, but the shrimp soon died.  Then, in January 1975, in Crystal River, we tried removing one eye and had our first successful spawn in captivity.  We had also heard reports of success using this technique by French researchers in Tahiti, at a project led by Alain Michel.  A cooperative effort was started with Alain’s group.

 

Following this breakthrough, we had to determine the ideal tank configuration for maturation in captivity.  Shrimp react to shadows, not direct light, so we used dark tanks to keep them calm.

 

We doubled our research capacity by setting up a maturation unit in Panama.  Joe Mountain was sent there to operate that facility.

 

We knew we had a lot of work to do in order to make this a practical reality.  One problem we had to address was what to feed broodstock.  We observed that they responded positively to fresh squid, oysters and frozen adult Artemia, and we got viable spawns with this diet.  One day in Panama some kids came by the hatchery selling marine worms for fishing bait.  We bought some and fed them to the adult shrimp, and they went crazy!  The tubes of these sea creatures stick up out of the sand during the low tide, so we equipped dozens of kids with bicycle tire pumps to blow them out of the sand.  This all took place on the beach right in front of our hatchery.  The discovery of marine polychaete worms was a real breakthrough.

 

Another serious problem we faced was that the wild-caught adult shrimp were not readily mating in captivity.

 

Shrimp News: How did you solve that problem?

 

Harvey Persyn: A lot of females were spawning without mating.  We tried dripping the eggs into sperm solutions, but that didn’t work.  Finally, we looked at the eggs as they entered the water, and it became obvious why fertilization did not take place.  The eggs would literally explode, leaving a protective gel barrier around the egg.  This so-called “cortical rod reaction” prevented the sperm from fertilizing the egg.

 

With this in mind, we decided to remove the spermatophores from males and attach them to the genitals of females that were ready to spawn, as though they had mated naturally.  That worked.  Artificial insemination was born.  A hormone from the female activates the sperm as the eggs are released.  Migrating down long hairy appendages that look like paint brushes, the sperm “paint” the eggs as they are released.  We got U.S. Patent Number 4,031,855 on this procedure.  The patent, filed in June 1976, covered the entire process of breeding shrimp in captivity, including eyestalk ablation and artificial insemination.

 

Shrimp News: Is shrimp mating still a problem today?

 

Harvey Persyn: No.  Holding successive generations in captivity has resolved the problem and to a great extent has obviated the necessity of eyestalk ablation.

 

Shrimp News: How were you able to get Indo-Pacific species for evaluation?

 

Harvey Persyn: In 1974, I made a journey to Southeast Asia, with stops in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Indonesia.  While in the Philippines, I met Tirso Jamandre, a shrimp farming pioneer.  He was operating a shrimp farm and hatchery.  We set up a cooperative effort with him and traded shrimp species for evaluation.  In 1976, I visited Taiwan, where I met Dr. I-Chiu Liao and Yenpin  Li (that’s Amber, who I later married).  A cooperative effort was started there as well, and we traded shrimp species and established joint research projects.  Both of these efforts resulted in long-term cooperation and information sharing.

 

We put together several exciting and promising deals in the Philippines, only to be informed at the last minute that Purina would not do business in that country.  Such was the frustration of working for a large corporation.  Similar deals were turned down in other countries.

 

Shrimp News: How did the Ralston Purina shrimp farming project come to an end?

 

Harvey Persyn: From 1976 to 1981, the shrimp farm in Panama was expanded twice to 800 hectares of ponds and was operating profitably.

 

In 1981, the long-time chairman of Ralston Purina was replaced.  The new chairman decided that the company was a consumer products company, not an agriculture company, and he started selling everything that did not fit his vision for the future.  He didn’t like the idea of shrimp farming and closed the facility in Crystal River and ordered the sale of the shrimp farm in Panama.  That put me out on the street, but I was confident that shrimp farming was going to be a big business, so along with my wife, Amber, and two other ex-Purina employees, Henry Clifford and Reggie Markham, we started Tropical Mariculture Technology (TMT), a consulting company.  By early 1982, we had our first contract to help establish a major integrated shrimp farming project in Brazil.  Amber caught up with us in Brazil in 1983, after completing her PhD at Auburn University.

 

Shrimp News: How did you market the services of TMT?

 

Harvey Persyn: Our business plan was to try and promote the development of shrimp farming projects in countries where they would have to rely on breeding shrimp in captivity.  We felt this was the future of shrimp farming, developing captive stocks that could be genetically improved over time.

 

This was in 1981 before the Internet, or even faxes.  We created a company logo and printed hundreds of brochures that listed our services and objectives and the resumes of our principals.  We called around to find addresses in target countries where someone might be receptive to our services.  We subscribed to a Telex service, since that was the primary means of overseas communication in those days, and sent our brochure all over the world.  By the end of the year, we started to get a trickle of inquires.  Such was our optimism for the future of shrimp farming that I even made a Dymo label for my office door, “World Headquarters” of TMT (which is still there!).

 

In January 1982, we heard from Luigi Petti, representing Construtora OAS, from Salvador, Brazil.  He had gotten one of our brochures that had been passed on three times.  Within a week, Luigi was in Crystal River to start discussions on his project ideas.  By early February, Henry Clifford and I were in Salvador, Brazil.  We signed a long-term contract and shortly thereafter moved to Brazil to begin the design and construction of a major shrimp farming project that included ponds, a hatchery, shrimp breeding facilities and a processing plant.  The new company was named Maricultura da Bahia, S.A.

 

Our first priority was to rear broodstock.  We had two ponds dug with pick and shovel that were filled by tidal flow.  We used these ponds to stock vannamei and stylirostris PLs that we obtained from Ecuadorean wild stock.  By October 1983, Maricultura was operational, using captive-reared broodstock from these small ponds.  Amber made a trip to Taiwan to get monodon and penicillatus PLs, two species with proven culture potential.  The penicillatus were used almost exclusively at a subsidiary of Maricultura that had high salinities.  That stock was held in captivity and used for production for more than ten years.

 

Our first importation of monodon was a great success, however we had a hard time selling shrimp with black stripes, which were unknown on the market at that time, but we had no problem maintaining a captive breeding population of monodon.  After a couple of years, someone thought it would be a good idea to get more monodon PLs from Asia to improve our genetic diversity.  This was a big mistake because we brought in the monodon baculovirus, which resulted in stunted growth.  We had to get rid of all the monodon after that.

 

Shrimp News: What came next after the Brazil project?

 

Harvey Persyn: We started getting visitors from Colombia and Venezuela who were looking for a way to get shrimp farms started in their countries.  In 1985, I made my first visit to Colombia.  We surveyed both the Cartagena area on the Caribbean coast, and the Tumaco area on the Pacific coast.  Curiously, there are few if any vannamei on the Pacific coast of Colombia, however they are found off the coast of its southern neighbor, Ecuador, and its northern neighbor, Panama.  Colombia would have to rely on closed-cycle breeding to sustain its shrimp farming operations.

 

We established a long-term contract with Cartagenera de Acuacultura and started the construction of a large-scale integrated shrimp farming project in 1986 that included a hatchery, a shrimp breeding facility and a processing plant.  The parent company already had its own feed mill.  Today this farm has over 900 hectares of ponds.

 

On my first visit to Colombia, I met with a government minister, the head of PROEXPO, Jose Vicente Mogollon.  He was extremely interested in starting shrimp farming in the country.  He soon left his post to start his own shrimp farming project, Agrosoledad, S.A.  This was an exciting project and produced good yields of large animals.  The farm and site had great natural beauty, and it was a pleasure to work there.  It operated very successfully for over 15 years, before being struck by a disease that only occurred in the immediate area of this farm.  The project was closed and never reopened.  Jose Vicente deserves much credit for the development of the shrimp farming industry in Colombia.

 

We also were involved in the design, construction and operation of Colombiana de Acuicultura, Aquipesca and Aquacultivos del Caribe, all on the Caribbean coast near Cartagena.

 

At the same time, we were assisting with the development of shrimp farming projects around Tumaco on the Pacific coast, namely Pexco, Aquamar, Caribena and Camaronera Balboa.  Balboa was the largest and most successful of these projects, an integrated operation with shrimp breeding facilities, a hatchery and a processing plant.  The Tumaco area had the disadvantage of isolation and a long supply line.  When the price of shrimp collapsed in 2001, coupled with the arrival of the whitespot virus, the farms there could no longer operate profitably.

 

Shrimp News: Didn’t you become involved in Venezuela in a big way?

 

Harvey Persyn: Yes, starting in 1987, we were invited by Goodyear to do a site and business evaluation for a large shrimp farming operation in Venezuela.  Goodyear had a tire plant in Venezuela and had funds to invest in a business that generated exports.  Shrimp farming and the tire business seemed like a strange mix until we were told the company operated rubber plantations, so shrimp farming was not that strange to them.  The company did everything the right way and started looking for the best possible site in the country.  We obtained detailed topographical maps of the entire coastline and then flew the entire coast with helicopters and planes.  Unfortunately, Goodyear had to abandon this project as the company was caught up in a green-mail scam that drained all their resources.

 

Later that same year, we were contacted by another group of investors in Venezuela who wanted to get into shrimp farming.  They had visited our projects in Brazil and Colombia, so we needed no introduction.  From my previous experience, I had already gained intimate knowledge of the entire coastline and was able to lead them immediately to the best possible site in the country.  We established Aquamarina de la Costa, S.A., and began construction on the farm in 1989.  Today, perhaps, it’s the most successful shrimp farm in Latin America.

 

One of the keys to the success of this project was the stringent rule on the importation of broodstock.  We arranged to bring in excess pond-reared broodstock from projects that we had established in Colombia.  Before that could occur, we had to go through a rigorous review by a transplanted English gentleman, Dr. David Conroy, who was a professor at the national university.  His experience was with trout in Great Britain, and he was determined we would not suffer the mistakes of the trout industry.  We would be allowed only one importation, and the animals had to pass a rigorous health inspection by him personally.  He set up detailed quarantine procedures.  Later, we considered him the savior of the shrimp farming industry in Venezuela because no serious diseases ever arrived there.

 

Aquamarina was one of the most sophisticated projects in terms of its genetic selection program and consistent yields.  Reggie Markham consulted on the farm for over ten years, while Chris Howell worked on the hatchery and genetic selection program.  Chris, a shrimp farming pioneer who started his career in the 1970s at the Marifarms project in Florida, is still actively involved in shrimp farming in Asia.  Henry Clifford and I parted ways in 1990, and he was not involved in our Venezuelan operations.

 

In 1992, we developed Ricoa Agromarina in west-central Venezuela.  This was another large, integrated project.  At this site we developed IHHNV (infectious hypodermal and hematopoietic necrosis virus) resistant stylirostris, which were later commercialized in Mexico as “Super Shrimp”.

 

We also worked on the development of numerous projects in the Maracaibo area, namely Agrocamsa, Agromarina Sea-Land and Terra Azul.  We also provided technical assistance and design work to several other projects in the region.

 

Shrimp News: Did you ever go back to Brazil?

 

Harvey Persyn: We did return to Brazil and worked on several projects.  We rehabilitated Marine Maricultura and improved its yields considerably.  We also provided site selection and design criteria for the construction of two other large projects, and we helped to establish facilities for tank-reared broodstock at the largest hatchery in Brazil, Aquatec.

 

Shrimp News: Did you ever do any projects in Ecuador?

 

Harvey Persyn: We finally became involved in a project there in 1998.  At that time we were surprised that hatchery PLs were considered the last resort; almost all farms in Ecuador were still relying on wild-caught PLs.  Our mission was to convince the owners of Omarsa that the way forward was to use captive-reared broodstock and hatchery produced PLs.  We brought in PLs from our project in Tumaco, Colombia, which had been held in captivity on the Pacific coast for more than ten years.  To our amazement, few if any farms in Ecuador were practicing any form of pond preparation; they would just harvest, refill and restock.  Our first harvest of a carefully prepared pond, stocked with our shrimp from Colombia, yielded double the normal production with high survivals.  Then we rehabilitated an abandoned hatchery that had been destroyed by an earthquake and used it to produce broodstock.  Soon we were producing 20 million nauplii per day and supplied three large hatcheries.  The 2,500 hectares at that project were soon producing yields never heard of before in Ecuador.  Sadly, in 2000, the whitespot virus reached Ecuador.  Our first thought was to try to select for resistance to the virus, since there are always survivors.  We set up a facility to establish survivor families and challenge them with the virus.  Sadly our contract was not renewed because of the economic stress caused by the disease outbreak.

 

Concurrent with the project in Ecuador, Amber and I provided similar technical assistance to a very large, integrated project in Panama, named Camaco.  We set up facilities for tank-rearing broodstock and supplied all the animals needed for the hatchery.  Prior to that, Panama had reverted to the use of wild-caught animals for maturation.  The whitespot virus first arrived at this farm in 1999, and unfortunately we were there to witness it and identify the virus.  This was a huge setback to what was a highly profitable operation.

 

Shrimp News: Have you worked on any projects in Southeast Asia?

 

Harvey Persyn: Yes, we worked with Black Tiger Aquaculture in Malaysia.  The project had just changed hands when we got there, and the new management wanted to concentrate its efforts on monodon genetic improvements.  The local stocks of monodon were hopelessly infected with every known virus and could not be used, so the company imported and quarantined clean stocks of monodon from Mozambique.  We designed the facilities to tank-rear SPF monodon broodstock, along with facilities to carry out family selection.  Around this time, SPF vannamei were starting to displace monodon all over Southeast Asia.

 

Shrimp News: Did any other shrimp farming pioneers get their start at Ralston Purina?

 

Harvey Persyn: Yes, lots of them!  Joe Fischer was hired as a nutritionist and made a significant contribution to the project, as well as other projects after leaving Purina.

 

Henry Clifford was hired as a shrimp nutritionist after Joe Fischer departed.  Later he partnered with me for almost ten years at TMT before branching off on his own.  He is now with Aqua Bounty Technologies, working on a genetically modified salmon project.

 

Reggie Markham started with Purina in 1974 and then joined TMT, assisting with all our projects in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.  He then headed up a project in Australia that involved closed-cycle breeding of SPF (specific pathogen free) monodon.  Lately he has been involved in clam farming research in Cedar Key, Florida.

 

Frank Follett was trained at our Crystal River facility and later managed the Agromarina shrimp farm in Panama.  Frank subsequently worked on projects in Ecuador, Brazil and Honduras.

 

Randall Aungst started with Purina in 1975.  After leaving Purina, he set up several shrimp farming projects in Malaysia, where he is still active today.

 

John Barkate and Rolland Larramore were our disease specialists.  After leaving Purina, Rolland worked on shrimp diseases all over the world.

 

Bill MacGrath, after leaving Purina, was one of the principals and founders of Granjas Marinas San Bernardo in Honduras, one of the world’s largest shrimp farms.

 

David Drennan has made an impressive contribution to the shrimp farming industry, and he has probably worked in every country in the Americas where there is a shrimp farm.  Even before joining Purina, he set up the first shrimp farm in Latin America, in Honduras, and he has recently completed a project in the Dominican Republic.

 

Glenn Beiber was hired in 1976 and was sent to Panama to work at Agromarina de Panama.  From there he launched a long career in Southeast Asia, India and Africa.  He is still doing hatchery work and monodon broodstock sales.

 

Bill More continued to manage Agromarina de Panama for more than 25 years, up until it was shut down by the whitespot virus.  Today he manages the Aquaculture Certification Council.

 

Yoshi Hirono left Purina in 1978 and helped establish one of the largest shrimp farming operations in Ecuador.  Now he works for Aquatic Ecosystems, a major equipment supplier to the shrimp farming industry.

 

Joe Mountain has since worked on shrimp farming projects in Sri Lanka, Honduras and Florida (Shrimp Culture, Inc., affiliated with Granjas Marinas), as well as other projects.

 

Padge Beasley, after leaving Purina, made a name for himself helping to develop the shrimp farming industry in Madagascar.

 

Ron Staha was very successful with his own hatchery in Panama, supplying nauplii to shrimp hatcheries in several countries.

 

Durwood Dugger got his start in shrimp farming with the Purina project and has since consulted on shrimp projects all over the world.

 

Ron Wulff also started with Purina.  Ron later headed up a freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) project in Honduras associated with the Red Lobster restaurant group.

 

One of our consultants, Dr. Addison Lawrence, gave his career in shrimp farming a big boost through his long association with Purina.  Addison is still actively working with shrimp at Texas A&M’s marine research facility in Corpus Christi.

 

All in all, this is an impressive lineup of very talented people.

 

Shrimp News: What is your current involvement in the shrimp farming industry?

 

Harvey Persyn: I have basically put myself out to pasture.  Several years ago in Florida, I did try to put together a live bait project and a super-intensive shrimp farm, but found the rules and regulations to be oppressive.  Occasionally, Amber and I still do some consulting work.

 

Shrimp News: Would you like to make some comments on the future of world shrimp farming?

 

 Harvey Persyn: Today, virtually all shrimp are being produced in ponds.  This will continue to be the case as long as this method produces shrimp at the lowest cost.  Shrimp is a commodity, and the low-cost farmers are the ones that survive.  It is a product that people like to eat and need no convincing to do so.  Demand will continue to grow as more and more nations improve their economic situations and people seek an improved diet.

 

There is much discussion and study of super-intensive systems to produce shrimp near the point of consumption.  We are still waiting for a successful project to emerge that would be a low-cost producer.  But it’s likely to happen someday, especially if shrimp follow the course of other farmed animals.

 

Shrimp News: What would you consider to be your legacy?

 

Harvey Persyn: Developing and disseminating the technology for closed-cycle breeding of shrimp would certainly be a part of it.  We also developed thousands of hectares of shrimp ponds and were probably responsible for the spinoff farms that surrounded them.  We trained a legion of biologists and technicians who are still out there farming shrimp.  Perhaps my true legacy is the economic development that our farms stimulated in depressed rural areas around the world, along with the thousands of people employed on the farms and in the hatcheries and processing plants.  Our farms also were responsible for the development of hundreds of small businesses that serviced the industry.  Many of the shrimp farms established schools and clinics to help the workers and their families.  I learned that even the greediest capitalist is a good capitalist when he puts his money to work creating an industry.

 

Source: Harvey Persyn, Interviewed by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News Internationall, December 2011. Published January 4, 2012.