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January 12, 2016

United States

Wisconsin—Bohemian Ocean Shrimp Farm

 

Mike Hable, owner of Bohemian Ocean, a new shrimp farm in Wisconsin, had been thinking about raising shrimp for several years, but wasn’t aware of anyone doing it in Wisconsin until seeing an article about Forbes Adam starting a shrimp farm in Westby.  Hable toured Adam’s operation before diving in to his own.

 

“I’d been looking at raising shrimp for a few years,” Hable said.  “I thought, ‘Well, it looks like I could do this.’  I got a couple shrimp books and read some stuff on the Internet—most of which isn’t true—and got started in May [2015].”

 

Hable renovated his barn, poured cement to level the ground for the shrimp tanks and put in plastic and foam insulation and an air supply for the tanks.  He keeps the air temperature above 90 degrees in the barn, which heats the tanks to 82 to 84 degrees.  The barn is heavily insulated, and plastic lining on the ceiling helps retain heat in colder months.  Hable does much of his heating with a wood boiler fired with scrap lumber.  He uses liquid propane as a back-up heating source.

 

To get ready for the shrimp, Hable added about 450 pounds of salt in each of the tanks.  He got his first shipment of 33,000 postlarvae from a shrimp hatchery in the Florida Keys, Shrimp Improvement Systems, on July 8, 2015.

 

He continuously monitored pH, ammonia, oxygen and carbon dioxide.  “Things seemed to be going fine for a while with the first crop, but pretty soon I could tell they weren’t going fine,” Hable said.  “My first crop of shrimp mostly died.  We harvested about 20 pounds before Christmas.  It should have been between 500 and 1,000 pounds.  But that’s not unusual.  A lot of growers have that problem until they get the right bacteria balance.”

 

Hable’s shrimp are raised in a biofloc system that uses microorganisms to reduce the ammonia and nitrites that are toxic to shrimp.  The microorganisms also provide a source of nutrients for the shrimp.

 

He got his second shipment of postlarvae in mid-September 2015.  In the process of preparing for the second batch, Hable learned that reusing water from the previous batch of shrimp would keep the beneficial bacteria around, reducing stress on the shrimp and increasing their chances of survival.

 

“I did a whole bunch of things wrong the first time around,” Hable said.  “I overfed them.  Everybody says, ‘Don’t overfeed them,’ but they don’t tell you how much is overfeeding.”

 

Hable has eight tanks in the barn: two nursery tanks, where the shrimp stay for the first four to six weeks, and six growout pools, where they stay until they are ready to harvest (about 18 grams at 4 to 5 months of age).  Each tank can hold up to about 6,000 shrimp, and Hable said he has room for more tanks if he decides to expand.

 

“If it all works, I’ve got room for 20 tanks,” he said.  “With just this set-up, I should be able to sell between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds of shrimp a year.”

 

Hable expects his first full harvest of about 500 pounds of shrimp to be ready by the end of February 2016.  He plans to sell the shrimp for about $20 a pound.  He said he would also have shrimp for sale at farmers’ markets in the spring of 2016.

 

“To tell anybody that I knew enough to be in the shrimp business is a lie,” Hable said.  “But I’m learning, I study, I’m experimenting, and I’m finding some things out on my own.”

 

Source: The Country Today.  Ocean of Opportunity: Chippewa County Businessman Converts Dairy Barn Into Shrimp Operation.  Nate Jackson (email nathan.jackson@ecpc.com).  January 11, 2016.

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