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January 14, 2015
Florida—American Mariculture Update
American Mariculture, Inc. is an intensive shrimp farm on Pine Island off the southwest coast of Florida. On January 6, 2015, Pearl met with about 100 islanders to address concerns about the construction and operation of his farm.
Cathy Malone, vice president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA), introduced Pearl, by saying:
“Recently we’ve started to notice that we seem to have a lot of aquaculture and fish farms on the island and wondered if this is the wave of the future that will replace palm groves and other agriculture. In calling around, I found Mr. Robin Pearl, president of American Mariculture, who is selling shrimp under the name of Sun Shrimp. He is here to explain to us his operation and...the future of this type of farming for Pine Island.”
“Thank you for inviting me here tonight,” Pearl said. “My farm is located about one mile south of here. We started planning about 4 or 5 months before we broke ground last August. Over the last year and a half we’ve built the largest indoor shrimp farm in the United States and probably in the world.”
“We are a small private company funded by individuals with a team of scientists and a team of businessmen who believe in creating better food. The United States imports 90 percent of its seafood from third world countries. A lot of companies have been trying to figure out how to do this. It’s a very hard thing to do and that’s why there are so few of us. Shrimp farming started in the United States about 25 to 30 years ago. They pretty much copied what they were doing in Asia and are now finding out this is not an effective way to harvest shrimp.”
“Shrimp farming in Asia uses a lot of chemicals, hormones, preservatives and dips. When shrimp are added to these dips, miraculously they gain 20 to 25 percent in weight. It’s all water and that’s why when you cook them they shrivel up. A lot of the shrimp that is imported to the USA doesn’t even qualify to be shipped into Europe. The USA has much lower standards and less inspections than European countries do. That’s why when you see ads ‘all you can eat for $6.99,’ you get far less quality at a lower standard for your money.”
“What we have here on Pine Island is a biosecure facility. I know everyone was wondering what all the fencing and gates are all about, but we need the farm to be biosecure. The only way we can have disease on the farm is if we bring it to the farm. Our shrimp are specific pathogen free (SPF)...disease free for the last 15 to 20 generations. That’s our starting stock, and we breed our own stock from there. Our water comes from a well and we don’t flush that water; we use the same water for the entire cycle of 150 days.”
“So far we’ve been very successful. Right now our ‘Sun Shrimp’ are being eaten in the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, New York City, Miami, Philadelphia and almost everywhere. We ship every day UPS overnight. Some of our large supermarket chains pick them up, but it’s truly unique to have fresh shrimp available every day.”
“We have received sustainability awards from Monterey Bay Aquarium...Fish-Wise and several others and are governed by the Florida Division of Aquaculture. Our shrimp are also available at Costco and Kroger.”
Questions from the Audience.
Pearl: We produce about 2,000 pounds per day.
Question: How many tanks do you have on the property?
Pearl: We have 144 tanks on 8.5 acres. That’s all we are planning at this time.
Question: Could you take us through the time it takes to grow shrimp?
Pearl: The life cycle of a shrimp is 150 days. We grow Pacific white shrimp and sell them at 16/20 whole count. We have a three-stage system where the shrimp stay in the nursery tank for 35 days, then we transfer them to a juvenile tank for 65 days, and then they spend 65 days in the final tank. When we harvest, they go right into ice that kills them immediately and they are shipped by 5 o’clock.
Question: Is your water fresh or saltwater?
Pearl: Saltwater, we have a saltwater well on the property.
Question: Do you plan on having tours?
Pearl: Because we are a biosecure facility we don’t have plans for tours.
Question: Are these buildings air conditioned?
Pearl: No. Shrimp like heat so we can have air temperatures over 100 degrees.
What we’re doing is unique in the industry and so far restaurants and other outlets are willing to pay a premium for shrimp raised without chemicals, antibiotics or preservatives. Sales are going great and we’ve had a wonderful response. I want to thank you for having me here tonight.
Information: Robin Pearl, American Mariculture, Inc., 9703 Stringfellow Road, St. James City, Florida 33956, USA (phone 954-494-3774).
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