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New Organic Shrimp Farm in Florida

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

The biggest US-based shrimp farm was created 90 miles from nearest seashore of Florida.  The OceanBoy Farms is based on a 1,500-acre spread near LaBelle with a processing plant 25 miles east on the outskirts of Clewiston, a quiet sugar town near Lake Okeechobee. It's the nation's largest commercial producer of organic shrimp, and, according to one expert, the most advanced seafood-farming operation anywhere, reports the Miami Herald.

The 55 million Dollars, privately held operation grew out of a master's thesis that founder David McMahon wrote a decade ago at the Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center on the feasibility of raising ocean shrimp in fresh water. His goal was to find a way of eliminating the pollution generated by ocean-based shrimp farms and the by-catch waste caused by commercial shrimping.

OceanBoy, a nickname McMahon picked up at Nova, is based on two discoveries he made: First, though they can only reproduce in salt water, shrimp can be acclimated to fresh water. And second, this patch of Hendry County sits atop an aquifer whose water not only contains the minerals shrimp need to produce shells, but is slightly saline - useless for crop irrigation but great for shrimp. Eight years after McMahon and a group of investors bought their first plot of land and four years after they began commercial production, OceanBoy annually turns out 24 million pounds of shrimp that are so pristine they meet sushi-grade standards in Japan, a country that's notoriously finicky about seafood.

OceanBoy's stock was developed from a disease-resistant strain of Pacific white shrimp. It's constantly being improved through selective breeding; there is no other genetic manipulation. In choosing breeding stock, Mogollon says he looks for big, fast-growing shrimp. When they're big enough, the breeders are moved to a warm, dark greenhouse with big tanks of heated water that look like giant hot tubs. The darkness mimics the light at dusk, when shrimp in the wild get frisky, and the breeders mate. When the females are ready to spawn, they're moved to pens of heated water in another shed, where each shrimp produces about 100,000 eggs that are about the size of grains of sand. The eggs are collected in containers lined with extremely fine mesh and transferred to covered, heated fiberglass tanks where the water is aerated, filtered and re-circulated.

These first-stage larvae are fed marine diatoms (a type of unicellular algae) that the farm grows in a solar-powered food-production room filled with gurgling flasks of brown liquid. After 17 days, when the larvae resemble teeny shrimp, the tanks are drained and the baby shrimp are trucked to nurseries where they stay for a month, until about an inch in length. Finally, they are transferred to the 24 grow-out ponds. A million shrimp grow in each four-acre, plastic-lined pond, and each set of eight ponds has a waste-treatment pond through which the water is recycled and returned to production. Each pond is treated like a patient, with its own clipboard back in the office to track water quality, feed consumption and growth. Four times a day, the shrimp are fed a mixture of organic wheat and soy fortified with vitamins, organic marine meal and amino acid-rich oils. After about four months, when the shrimp are 3 to 4 inches long, they are netted and trucked to the Clewiston processing plant.

Eddy Daniel, the vice president of processing, is in charge of the plant, which employs 125 people during the twice-yearly harvests. The shrimp are chill-killed in icy slush, jet-washed, de-headed by hand and graded. Some are left shell-on; others are peeled and steam-cooked. A conveyor belt carries them through a liquid-nitrogen tunnel that instantly freezes them. Then they're glazed with ice to protect from freezer burn, bagged, boxed and stored overnight in a deep-freeze before shipping to customers around the country and in Japan.

OceanBoy founder McMahon, now the company's chief scientist, is hoping that producers in major aquaculture centers like India, Bangladesh and China will adopt the new production method.






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