Gulf oil spill spurs interest in Indiana shrimp farming

October 20, 2010

Robert Rode, manager of Purdue's aquaculture research lab, consults with Benton County shrimp farmer Marie Brown. According to Rode, the Brown family is one of three Indiana shrimp producers. Each of the six 18-foot diameter tanks on Brown's farm can produce 12,000 shrimp, equaling about 500 pounds. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Indiana's aquaculture industry could help fill a void in shrimp production left by the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

Kwamena Quagrainie, aquaculture marketing director for Purdue University's Department of Agricultural Economics, has received inquiries from people interested in going into shrimp production because of the spill.

"People are concerned about the safety and quality of seafood coming from the Gulf," Quagrainie said. "There's something that the aquaculture industry can take advantage of, at least with shrimp, before they fully recover. There's a prospect for Indiana shrimp to fill in some of the gaps."

The focus is on shrimp because much of the nation's supply comes from the Gulf Coast and it is one of the top seafoods consumed in the United States.

The aquaculture industry in Indiana has 89 licensed aquaculture facilities with annual sales estimated at $6 million. Three raise shrimp.

Quagrainie said if the oil spill had any effect on the Indiana aquaculture industry, it was probably in the price of shrimp. Demand was good, and farmers with freshwater shrimp received a better price than last year.

This shrimp, raised by Marie Brown, is about one month away from being ready for the market. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

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Robert Rode, aquaculture research lab manager for Purdue, said the oil spill provides an opportunity for producers to market their products and let consumers know how their fish or shrimp are raised.

"There should be a premium on knowing that there are no contaminants, etcetera, in the products grown here," Rode said.

Whether this is a good time to start an aquaculture operation depends on how fast the Gulf Coast shrimp industry recovers, Quagrainie said.

To get started in aquaculture, producers should know what they want to produce and what kind of production system they want to use. For example, saltwater shrimp are raised indoors, where temperature and water quality can be controlled. The process is more expensive than producing freshwater shrimp outdoors because of the cost of equipment and management.

When considering the type of fish or shrimp, producers should be aware that some species are well suited for indoor production while others thrive outdoors.

Different areas in Indiana will be best for different operations.

Most of the shrimp farms are south of Indianapolis because of longer warm weather, Quagrainie said. 

''For outdoor freshwater shrimp that require warm weather, south of Indy is ideal," he said.   "You can grow the shrimp north of Indy, but you will have a shorter growing season."

Rode said establishing an aquaculture operation takes resources and effort, similar to any other animal operation.

"Depending on what you do, the amount of capital can be quite extensive, and the more resources you have at your disposal the better off you are," Rode said. "It is a 24/7 operation, so you had better be ready to work. The more educated you are to start, the better off you will be."

Rode said a new producer also would need to develop a business and marketing plan.
      
Writer:  Elise Brown, 765-494-8402, brown222@purdue.edu

Sources:  Kwamena Quagrainie, 765-494-4200, kquagrai@purdue.edu

                   Robert Rode, 765-494-4761, rrode@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page

Related website:
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Aquaculture and Aquatic Resources