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Recirculating Aquaculture Systems

Are They the Future of Shrimp Faming?

 

Shrimp News: The first three comments in this report from the Shrimp List were posted to my Free Reports Page on December 24, 2013.  After that, the discussion exploded to over thirty additional comments, which I’ve summarized here, immediately below the original three comments.  When the comments veered away from RAS, to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), for example, I did not include them here, but they would make good fodder for a future discussion.

 

Durwood M. Dugger (ddugger@biocepts.com): When you combine theft losses, diseases that might be averted with a closed (and biosecure) environment and the multi-crop advantage of temperature controlled, year-round production without seasonal growth slumps due to low temps (common even in the tropics with equatorial dry seasons), the additional capital for recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) seems economically justified in the long term.

 

Matt Briggs (koygung101@yahoo.co.uk): Hi Durwood, could you tell us whether there are any commercially operating and viable recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) systems producing shrimp for the market place anywhere in the world right now?  The idea is nice, but is it actually a commercial reality?

 

Durwood M. Dugger (ddugger@biocepts.com): Hi Matt, there are scores of small RAS systems producing shrimp for the market place.  Are they producing the kinds of quantities that are likely to interest institutional investors?  Probably not.  Are they profitable?  I’m guessing, but that is highly questionable by most standard business analyses, but there may be a few.  Bottom line—I don’t know.

 

My point regarding RAS is that given the risk factors of open ponds, perhaps it’s time to look at the more capital intensive, but more secure controlled-environment systems.  Aquaculture systems aren’t very capital sensitive, but aquaculture investors have been very sensitive to capital costs.  It’s my opinion that this is specifically where and what limits RAS investment and development at the vertically integrated scales necessary to be competitive with open pond systems.

 

Russ Allen (shrimpone@aol.com): Briefly, I have to defend Durwood—RAS is the future of shrimp farming.

 

Economies of scale are everything.  Some day we will get there.  When we do, watch out!

 

There is a new paradigm out there, too bad you guys (in general) don’t get it.

 

Haydar Alsahtout (alsahtout@yahoo.com): After almost 25 years in this industry, as an investor and as a manager, and after witnessing the situation in Taiwan, China, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and now in Saudi Arabia, I would certainly state without hesitant that the future of shrimp farming is with RAS.

 

RAS needs a few entrepreneurs to take the lead and some new investors with vision who are willing to adopt a scientific and innovative approach.  I don’t think the current players are the ones who are going to take the lead and make the change.  Also, I don’t think RAS will take off where traditional shrimp farming is well established.

 

Daniel Gruenberg (seagardenfoods@mac.com): Haydar, I think you have a very narrow view.  I think you have set up a straw man here: Current shrimp farming is wrong, so RAS is the way to go.  That’s not good logic.  What about just fixing the current method of pond farming?

 

We are getting 200% return on investment (ROI) on farming shrimp in ponds.  Please show me a RAS plan (doesn’t even have to be a real system) that can get anywhere near that.

 

Fixing the wrong problem is not going to fix shrimp farming.

 

What about Latin America? I see a shrimp farming industry that has overcome adversity and is massively successful and profitable.

 

When I look at Saudi Arabia, I see poor management.  The same can be said for other mega projects in Malaysia and Indonesia.

 

In Southeast Asia, I see EMS.

 

Please tell me how RAS is going to fix these extremely diverse problems.  By fixing the wrong problem, you will actually be creating a new set of problems.  I don’t deny that there will be certain niche markets for small RAS farms, but as soon as you get out of that niche and start to compete with global producers, you will hit a wall and never be able to compete and never be able climb over the wall.

 

Notwithstanding the capital cost of RAS systems, thus far all RAS have failed to live up to their theoretical potential to achieve lower feed conversion ratios (FCRs) by recycling nutrients through biofloc.  I think most RAS shrimp systems get between 1.5 and 2.0 plus FCRs, which are higher than our commercial farm, which achieves a FCR of 1.03.

 

With the triple whammy of high FCRs, high capital costs and high operating costs (especially high energy costs), I don’t share your vision that RAS is the future for shrimp farming.

 

Kurt Servin (kurt_servin@yahoo.com.mx): Halleluiah!  Daniel, I totally agree with you, RAS systems in México are full of myths and hopes.  Thankfully, our ponds are producing shrimp and making money, even during the EMS crisis.

 

South of the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, México produces shrimp year round, using the old Macrobrachium infrastructure (0.7 hectare ponds) converted into intensive Penaeus vannamei ponds stocked at 100 to 140 postlarvae per square meter.  For over ten years, these low salinity, polyculture ponds have been producing three crops a year.

 

Haydar Alsahtout (alsahtout@yahoo.com): Hi Daniel, I repeat: “The future of shrimp farming is with RAS.”

 

A 200% ROI in pond farming might apply to one crop in one pond, or on a small farm, but how about the ROI on an industrial scale farm for a period of five to ten years?  Even if it works well for one pond or small farm, we should not take that as a base for our discussion because, on average, it is not typical of the industry.

 

The issue of huge capital requirement for RAS is not exactly correct if you take into account their sustainability and high productivity.  Yes, they need to be large, probably producing over 10,000 metric tons of shrimp a year, and they will be expensive, but if they make money what’s the problem?

 

Daniel Gruenberg (seagardenfoods@mac.com): Haydar, I give you the example of the farm I work for.  It started in 1985 with three hectares of ponds and now covers over 200 hectares.  It’s one of the most profitable farms in Eastern Thailand with its own feed mill and metal works on site.  How did we grow so big if our model was unsustainable?  We have experienced almost 30 years of uninterrupted growth.

 

You mention production of 10,000 metric tons as an appropriate size for a RAS shrimp farm.  An argument could be made that no farm should be that big because none of the mega-shrimp farms have been successful, and there aren’t even that many mega shrimp farms.

 

You also put up an additional straw man by claiming that I am supporting the current method of shrimp farming.  I am not.  Again just because I don’t support RAS shrimp farming, it doesn’t follow that I am supporting the current system.

 

I support shrimp farming that encompasses improvements in genetics (SPR-SPF), feed formulation, feed control, pond management and shrimp handling.

 

In another life, I am one of the leading producers of RAS technology for fish and have been involved in this industry for over 20 years.  We are now designing and building RAS systems to produce 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons of fish.  I don’t know of any viable RAS system of 10,000 metric tons for shrimp, and I can tell you from experience that these systems are just as susceptible to catastrophic failure as any pond system.  In fact a solid argument could be made that such systems are even more susceptible than pond farming systems due to the extremely high concentrations of biomass in a small area, while depending on fragile life support systems.

 

You cannot just jump to the higher level of production without working through the processes that currently do not scale (of which there are many).

 

If you have investors for a 10,000-metric-ton RAS shrimp system, give me one hour with them, and I will convince them to invest with me instead.  Of course I am being facetious, but you get my point.  I have raised tens of millions of dollars of capital for various projects and companies directly and hundreds of millions indirectly, so I do speak the language of investors and understand the biology and technology of shrimp farming.

 

I think you are failing to see that the culprit here is the specific pathogen free (SPF) paradigm, not pond farming in general.  Again, I think you are fixing the wrong problem, and if you ever build one of your mega-RAS shrimp farms, you will eventually learn what I am talking about.  You will discover an entirely new set of problems.  I suggest you peruse the publications of the Aquaculture Engineering Society to get a handle on RAS problems.

 

As for pond production of shrimp, obviously something is wrong with the way shrimp are currently produced, but my concepts will bring pond farming to a whole new level and then RAS will have an even higher hurdle to surpass.

 

John Birkett (jbirkett42@yahoo.com): It’s nice to read this speculation on the future of shrimp farming.  There will be a time for super-intensive RAS, but we are not there yet.

 

Hank Bauman (hank_bauman55@yahoo.com): I believe the future will bring multi-species systems that include shrimp.

 

Dallas Weaver (deweaver@mac.com): The economies of scale for high-tech systems are really not as large as claimed by promoters of RAS aquaculture systems.  It appears that the promoters use “economics of scale” as an excuse for the observation that almost all RAS systems for both fish and shrimp have been economic failures.  I made a living in RAS, but didn’t produce food animals.

 

Note that secondary sewage treatment systems are microbiologically similar to super intensive biofloc systems.  When I look at the cost per ton of dry weight organic waste handled by my local 200 million gallon per day sewage treatment plant (talk about economies of scale—about 200 tons of dry weight organics and ammonia a day), their cost per dry weight ton is very close to what much smaller biofloc systems cost to process the waste from a ton of feed.

 

When someone claims a new super RAS technology, you always need to ask the question: If I discovered a way to remove dilute manure and associated soluble chemicals (ammonia) from water significantly more economically than existing sewage treatment technologies, would I sell it in aquaculture or go after the ten-billion-dollar-capital-investment-per-year sewage treatment industry?

 

RAS is nothing but high-tech sewage treatment combined with added biosecurity issues and the risks of having an income stream coupled to one or a few species.

 

Daniel Gruenberg (seagardenfoods@mac.com): The only thing I can add is that as long as it costs me only a few pennies per pound to ship my shrimp, the production will gravitate to the area with lowest cost of production.  Until FCRs of floc systems achieve 0.8 (what we think is possible in the pond), I don’t see any competitive advantage.

 

Dallas and I have done a lot of work on recirculating systems, so our arguments should hold more “water” than those of people speculating about mega systems!

 

Brian Boudreau (brianboudreau01@yahoo.com): It could be that the future the shrimp farming systems is not with intensive RAS, intensive bioflocs, or open semi-intensive natural ponds, but with a combination of these technologies across a multiphase spectrum from intensive biofloc nurseries to large open ponds, where the most expensive technology is used on a small scale to insure protection and survival of the early life stages.  We still need to take advantage of the incredible natural productivity available in large open ponds in tropical climates.

 

Jorge Cordova (seabizec@yahoo.com): Hi Brian, what you propose is taking place in Ecuador right now, and it’s working fine.

 

John Birkett (jbirkett42@yahoo.com): Brian, that’s right, and it’s happening now.  Larval rearing is done pretty intensively with raceways and bioflocs, while ponds are managed in a semi-intensive way.  We must rely on our known cost-efficient systems and improve them as we go.

 

Anil Ghanekar (anilghanekar@yahoo.com): RAS, biofloc and algal-based systems are all very good solutions depending on what one wants to achieve.

 

RAS is certainly a very good tool where clear water is a requirement, such as aquariums, Koi pools and shrimp maturation tanks.

 

In situations where water clarity is not a requirement, biofloc and algal-based systems are much cheaper to install and operate.

 

Daniel Gruenberg (seagardenfoods@mac.com): Haydar, I would like to add that even though RAS systems don’t exchange much water with the environment and are therefore less susceptible to pathogens, broodstock and larvae are still dependent on live feeds, so there is no way you can say confidently they will not be exposed to Vibrios.

 

We can grow arctic char (a fish) at up to 150kg/m3 in some recirculating systems, but still it is very expensive to sterilize all that water.

 

At the end of the day, a RAS farm capable of producing 10,000 metric tons of shrimp a year is a recipe for disaster.

 

Maybe someday you will prove me wrong, but long before that day arrives, I will be retired and sipping margaritas, watching you struggle with your RAS shrimp production.

 

Patrick Wood (patrickjwood@yahoo.com): By the time shrimp RAS becomes commercially and competitively viable enough to be the dominant sustainable proven technology, there won’t be a market for farmed shrimp.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  What everyone is discussing here is simple back-to-basics shrimp farming.  RAS and super-intensive systems are still pipe dreams, great as University projects and fine for tickling investors fancy, but that’s about it.  The money needs to be in production, not in selling technology.

 

Pamindangan Farm (pamindangan@gmail.com): RAS is definitely an interesting concept, but to say that it is the future of shrimp farming is stretching it a bit.  That is like saying a 700-hp Ferrari is the future of cars.  The biggest stumbling block for a poor farmer like me is probably the huge initial investment of building a farm before knowing the break-even point or ROI.  A European group that I happened to meet last year quoted me a price of $2 million to build an RAS system in my little farm.  With that amount of money, I could buy about 1.8 to 2 million kilograms of shrimp feed and produce 1.2 metric tons of shrimp using the current system that I am comfortable with.  Unless Roman Abramovich (the fifth richest person in Russia) is suddenly interested in investing in this “talking shrimp farm”, I don’t see why I should risk going all in.

 

That is not to say that I am resisting modernization or innovation in shrimp farming.  In fact, I am in favor of improving shrimp farming because my life depends on it.  Sadly, while I’m trying to grasp the basics of shrimp farming, the industry continues to evolve, throwing stuff like AHPND and IMNV at me.  Capital—no matter how big and massive—does not guarantee or ensure future success in shrimp farming.  Why is one of the biggest Indonesian shrimp farms going downhill, despite having the most capital at one point in time?

 

In my opinion, small-scale farms and research labs should not be the benchmark for shrimp farming.  There’s a huge difference between them and large-scale, semi-intensive and extensive farms.

 

Mark Rigby (mrigby@llyn-aquaculture.co.uk): In the near future, we will embark on a 1,000-metric-ton-a-year RAS/biofloc farm in the United Kingdom.

 

Of course, we would be crazy to do this in a region where temperatures were good year round and where land and labor were cheap enough to make Daniel’s type of system the better choice.  But as you point out Daniel, not everyone is doing it as sustainably as you—by a long shot—and probably never will.  So what if the ROI isn’t 200%?  Did you really pay back your investment in six months, or am I missing something?  Payback in five to seven years is okay, achievable and sustainable.  Our heat will be free.  Actually we will be paid to use it because it is waste heat from a power station.

 

Our background is with fish in recirculation systems where production rates can easily be 200 kg/m3 a year for fast-growing, high-density fish.  The levels of 25 to 30 kg per m2 a year for shrimp seems like very low density to us!  Note the “per m2” for shrimp versus the “per m3” for fish.  This is because with many fish we can use tanks three to four meters deep while there is little advantage in going over 1.5 meters deep for shrimp.  Interestingly, we have grown flatfish in shallow tanks and produced over 300kg/m3/year.

 

In all the taste tests we’ve done with our super fresh shrimp (within one day of harvest), they have always beaten anything that the supermarkets here can offer.  I’m sure if you eat your shrimp straight from the ponds the same can be said for yours, too.  The best shrimp I have ever tasted (apart from our own) were fresh from ponds in Australia, but by the time the majority of farmed shrimp get from the tropics to Europe, they are tasteless rubbery UFOs (unimpressive frozen objects).

 

When covered in batter and eaten with ketchup, or in a curry, freshness does not make much difference, so the frozen imported product will continue to dominate the market in Europe.  Of course carefully selected and well-handled frozen imported shrimp can be very good.

 

Dallas, even the most intensive RAS fish farm has to maintain nutrient levels in the water that are hundreds of times lower than those in a sewage treatment works.  The water in a sewage treatment plant is way worse than anyone would ever want to use on fish/shrimp farm.  Although there is a fundamental similarity, the water quality is about as different as a formula-1 car and a moon buggy.

 

Dallas Weaver (deweaver@mac.com): RAS systems provide greater control over the environment and biosecurity, but they are expensive.  Recycling system with high biosecurity do make a lot of economic sense for the production of shrimp postlarvae and fish fry because they are valued at more than $100 a kilogram.  Both the feed and waste product amounts per dollar of production are very small.  At the growout level, however, the extra cost of RAS relative to pond culture comes from controlling gas/liquid mass transfers (adding O2 and removing CO2), eliminating ammonia and controlling suspended solids and the biological oxygen demand of the animals.

 

Biofloc technologies are just a cheaper way to do waste treatment with less capital investment than conventional fixed film bioreactors, but they have higher O2 demands and carbon source costs.  With the lower capital costs, these systems can be financially viable with lower value produce in the range of existing shrimp prices, but the added O2 demand cost and carbon cost can become marginal with low-value species like some of the catfish and tilapia.

 

With pond systems, you are using solar energy inputs instead of purchased carbon and O2 as the energy source to drive the waste treatment process that detoxifies the shrimp/fish manure.  This energy source is limited by area, which is why land cost and other local factors are important.  You can’t do this in cities.  Even better, the byproduct of photosynthesis from removing the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) nutrients added by the shrimp also adds O2 and removes CO2.  With a deep enough pond and enough mixing to prevent stratification, the gas transfer energy requirement can be low and even near zero at low enough densities.

 

Both biofloc and algae based ponds can recycle some of the nutrients and decrease the FCR (calculated excluding carbon or solar energy inputs).  Mixtures of biofloc and algae based systems using ODAS (organic detrital algal soup—from Steve Serfling’s work back in the 1970s) also work, but often require partitioned systems such as variations on Dave Brune’s partitioned aquaculture systems.

 

Given the above basic conditions, the cost of basic production in deep photosynthesis driven pond systems will always beat RAS.  For hatcheries and juvenile production, pond systems have difficulty achieving the biosecurity necessary to produce the numbers and the consistency required.  With most of the overall cost of production in growout and the growout dependent on a source of “clean” juveniles, high reliability and consistency of juvenile production becomes critical.

 

Starting with maturation where SPF and SPR broodstock are matured in very high performance recycle systems using fine media fluidized bed biofilters with temperature, salinity and pH control and highly treated and sterilized input waters followed by larval rearing using recycled system or “clean” input water with high biosecurity, followed by biofloc and ODAS technology with medium to high biosecurity, followed by pond growout using best available biosecurity seem to be the natural evolution of the overall system.

 

Mark, yes, concentrations in aquaculture are 100 times lower than those in sewage treatments plants, and that eliminates many options that are viable in sewage treatment from consideration in RAS aquaculture.  The high performance of membrane bioreactors in sewage treatment becomes far less economical at the 100 times lower concentration when much of the cost of the system is a dollars-per-meters-squared processes.  The higher performance of bacteria on surfaces at low concentrations also tends to shift aquaculture technology towards fixed film reactors (fluidized beds, trickling filters and moving bed reactors).

 

We are the “moon buggy” with more limits on our designs, and our costs are similar or greater than sewage treatment systems with their high concentration advantages and wider technological options, but our economies of scale are similar.

 

RAS technology is still the best for hatcheries and niche markets, but it isn’t going to feed the world.

 

Mark Rigby (mrigby@llyn-aquaculture.co.uk): For sure recirculation systems are not going to feed the poor of the world, nor is extensive farming in open ponds.  We need a bit of everything in the right proportion to meet the demand.  For certain, recycling nutrients is the key to long-term sustainability.  No argument there.  The system we are going to use on our RAS shrimp farm in the United Kingdom mops up nitrogen and phosphorous from our wastewater with seaweeds and samphire (Salicornia europaea, a salt-tolerant, edible plant that grows in coastal areas).

 

Just to put some figures out there, construction costs for an intensive indoor shrimp farm fall somewhere around $15 to $18 per kilogram of yearly production, which includes an insulated building.  That means a shrimp farm capable of producing 1,000 metric tons a year would cost $15 to $18 million to build.  How does that compare to an open pond farm?

 

Of course things can go wrong in RAS—as they evidently do in open systems.

 

Russ Allen (shrimpone@aol.com): Mark, my numbers show that here in the USA I can build an indoor shrimp farm for about $6.50 per kilogram of production—proven over the last 20 years.

 

Dallas Weaver (deweaver@mac.com): Mark, the minute you start talking about seaweed to obtain more nutrient sustainability, you are talking about pond aquaculture.  Seaweed is photosynthesis limited and that determines the area and also dictates that economical temperature control is out of the ballpark.  If you produce greenhouse seaweeds for niche markets, the economic advantages of tying it into a aquaculture facility are minimal.

 

Pond type approaches can achieve sustainability, but they have a big footprint.  If we could control the actual microbiological ecology of a pond, we could shove the energy flows into high-quality food for our animals.  The game that Daniel is playing by shifting toward diatoms is heading toward that microbiological ecology control.  Control takes more knowledge, but less capital.

 

We know we can help shift an ecology away from blue-green algae with nitrogen/phosphorous-ratio control (especially by decreasing P) and by controlling silicon dioxide’s impact on diatoms.  However, we need a better tools like a mix of phages to cut the Vibrio parahaemolyticus strain that causes EMS.

 

In the long run, Daniel’s approach for meat production will win over RAS approaches and will feed the world.  The better FCRs of aquatic animals will results in meat yields two to three times those of pigs and chickens.  Also, the meat yield from aquatic animals is higher than those of pigs and chickens, which further increases the FCR advantage of aquatic animals.

 

Daniel Gruenberg (seagardenfoods@mac.com): My strong personal view is that poor management and lack of understanding of current ecological systems leads to a huge amount of waste.  We have much to gain from focusing on the waste in our current systems.  Paddlewheel aerators and my archenemy the SPF paradigm are great examples of waste.

 

As it relates to shrimp, SPF has lead us into a dead-end (something I predicted more than 10 years ago), and it will be painful to back out of this dead-end, but the SPR paradigm will open a whole new era of genetic gains unchecked by inexorable relationship between high growth and poor survival inherent in the SPF paradigm.

 

With traditional breeding, perhaps supplemented by marker-assisted selection, shrimp can move a long ways forward by optimizing genetics for growth and disease resistance.  We can also optimize feed formulations and feeding controls.  In this way the hard part of feed management can be completely automated and managed by a group of PHDs on one side of the planet while local labor keeps the feed bins full on the other side.

 

Capital will gravitate to investments with the highest rate of return.  This is an economic principle that RAS supporters seem to forget.  My 200% ROI is a reality in pond-based shrimp farming today.  If I wanted to optimized only ROI, while ignoring all other variables, I think I could get it even higher.

 

In closing, I am not nay-saying Mark’s system in the UK.  I think his project has a good chance of succeeding.  I am especially happy to hear that he is competing based on product quality,  something that most farmers today think very little about.  We would all be a little better off if we cared about what happened to our shrimp after we harvest them.  I see a lot of sloppy work all over the world, and I send my kudos to Mark for having the vision and the means to embark on such a project.

 

Mark Rigby (mrigby@llyn-aquaculture.co.uk): Thanks Daniel, I think what others might have missed is that one of our the primary goals is to integrate waste heat from a power plant with our system for growing shrimp.  All power production, perhaps with the exception of solar, produces vast amounts of waste heat.  When seeking to integrate systems, we should all be looking outside of aquaculture—to other industries, processes and agriculture.  Integrating our farm with seaweed production is a secondary goal and serves to tick the right boxes as far as not releasing nutrients back into the environment.  We are not relying on it as a major profit stream.  Of course it will take up a large area and be less intensive.  It will also be seasonal and outdoor.  We have run a four-year pilot project and do not have a romantic vision of a 100% closed system from day one—although we do not rule out that possibility in the long run.

 

Daniel, with an ROI of 200% nobody would choose RAS over your system at your location.

 

Somebody already mentioned the problems in Saudi Arabia.  This is a prime example of relocating a farming technique to an area with a whole different set of constraints, like having to do massive water exchanges to maintain salinity.

 

As I have said before the choice of system has to fit the conditions.  With this in mind I am only an RAS supporter where it is economically appropriate.  Even within RAS, there are many design choices to be made depending on species, location, climate, scale, cost of power, and of course, the cost of labor.  Even if all them point to choosing a more extensive system, the increased biosecurity of a recirculating system may still make it more economical in the long term.

 

There is no one RAS/biofloc system that fits all situations.  The power company we work with also has plans for India and the Middle East.  Rest assured, it will not install a replica of our RAS facilities there.  There will be very little demand for more heat there!  Cheap power, biosecurity, free water would be the benefits in those countries.

 

Haydar Alsahtout (alsahtout@yahoo.com): For our colleagues who are defending existing practices, I would like to invite them to tell us how shrimp farming might hold up to another round of diseases like EMS and WSSV.  What if two new big challenges hit us in the next five years.  Will we survive?  Only RAS will be able to address future challenges.

 

The future scenario in my opinion will be as follows: We will see RAS in every country, in every location and in large and small units producing shrimp for local and export markets.  The production from traditional pond system will mainly go to local emerging markets.  The existing shrimp ponds will be converted gradually to fish production, as demand for fish will increase at much higher rate than that of shrimp.  The higher value shrimp will be produced in expensive facilities, while lower value fish will be produced in less expensive facilities.

 

Finally, I am not disqualifying the fact that some of the existing pond operations are sustainable and profitable, but there are not many such examples.  Maybe the industry would have been better off if every operation was managed by an expert like Daniel.  My congrats to him and others like him who are excelling, but they have to know that the majority within the industry are not enjoying the same success.

 

Brian Boudreau (brianboudreau01@yahoo.com): Haydar, many of the zero exchange projects that I have read about are one time university grant projects where they use the water only a couple of times.  Who is to say that new diseases will not develop that are specific to zero exchange systems.

 

I think we cannot throw all existing shrimp farms and shrimp farming methodologies into one bag.  Some methodologies use SPF animals and start with sterilized water, while others take a more natural approach letting the natural microbial pond ecology reach a healthy balance using animals selected for resistance over generations of exposure to the pond environment.

 

Still others with a good understanding of sun driven shrimp pond ecology recognize the many beneficial synergies that exist naturally and try to maximize their effects within a complex pond ecology, nutrient cycling and energy flow.  These systems harness the sun’s energy to produce a free carbon source that supports a very productive pond environment.

 

Dallas Weaver (deweaver@mac.com): Daniel, in the long term, there is only one real resource of importance and that is energy.  Given energy and technology, within present technological limits (no pie in the sky), all else is possible.

 

Lai Leland (lelandlai@aquafauna.com): While RAS to the nth degree may solve a lot of problems, it means the industry will have to invest a lot more money to effectively exclude or prevent another round of infectious diseases.  Most existing farms and farmers lack the deep pockets that this approach requires.

 

Jim Wyban (jim.wyban@gmail.com): I want to comment on a few points in this discussion that ignore the documented history of the shrimp farming industry.

 

First, comments about shrimp breeders focusing only on growth ignores a lot of published history.  Both the Oceanic Institute and my company High Health Aquaculture selectively bred SPF shrimp for both fast growth and virus resistance.  Over 15 generations of selection, we doubled shrimp growth and made them Taura resistant.  This combined selection was first recommended by Trygve Gjedrem, a salmon geneticist from Norway.

 

When our SPF shrimp went to Asia, they produced huge crops with much greater profits than Asia’s farmers had ever experienced.  Keep in mind that the Asian environment and shrimp farms in particular were just as badly contaminated with shrimp diseases (WS, TSV, YHV and IHHNV) and pollution as anywhere in the Americas.  Despite this contamination, stocking SPF postlarvae was a huge success that lasted for more than ten years.

 

Now we have EMS—the perfect killer—and risks associated with open ponds have greatly increased in EMS countries.  While open ponds are the least-cost shrimp production technology, can they be protected from EMS?  Some combination of SPF postlarvae (certified EMS-free) selectively bred for EMS resistance, probiotics that exclude/suppress Vibrio parahaemolyticus, nutraceuticals (feed additives) that increase shrimp resistance, biosecurity and good husbandry (eco-management) will reduce EMS risk and improve pond systems performance.  Big industry players (feed companies and exporters) should be motivated to develop such solutions.  These technologies will increase production costs of shrimp in ponds and not completely eliminate risks.

 

Food systems are now attracting global investors.  EMS production shortfalls have doubled shrimp prices, and that’s stoking the fires of financiers looking at shrimp farming investments.  New investments will likely target biosecure systems (greenhouse raceways) because of reduced risks.

 

Shrimp farmers produced 3.7 million metric tons in 2010.  Growing world demand for shrimp can support an industry doubling.  To produce 7.5 million metric tons, pond systems will still be important, but new biosecure systems will drive the next wave of expansion.

 

Haydar Alsahtout (alsahtout@yahoo.com): Dear Jim, I appreciate your approach, and would add that biosecure greenhouse raceways are a big step toward a RAS future.

 

Source: The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers).  Subjects: 1. Australia ($Billion), Jamaica (Second Farm Quits), USA (Iowa); 2. RAS; 3. Would RAS be the future of Shrimp Farming?  December 21, 2013, to January 8, 2014. 4. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, January 9, 2014.

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