Landlocked farmers find opportunity meeting growing demand
Every morning, Rick Clymer walks into his barn and tends a growing crop. He peers into thirteen 16' swimming pools to ensure feed, health and water temperatures are at optimal levels, before harvesting and filling orders—all year long. A lifelong cattle and turkey producer in southwest Missouri, Clymer is tapping into a heavy demand vein—inland shrimp farming.
In 2012, Clymer and his son Nathan brainstormed how to squeeze money from an underused poultry barn. Their answer was 1,300 miles away off the coast of Ecuador—Pacific white shrimp. They jumped into the proverbial pool in 2014 and retrofitted the barn—setting up water movement, feeding systems and water-quality processes they designed. By February 2015, the first crop of Circle Sea Shrimp Farm was ready for sale.
“We raise shrimp all year round with a continuous harvest once a month,” Rick says. “It typically takes 120 to 140 days to get shrimp to harvest size—about 22 to 24 per pound. Inputs are low and include hatchling shrimp, electricity, propane and feed.” And demand? “We charge $15 per pound up to 4 lb., and $12 per pound after,” Nathan adds. “We’re running a six- to eight-week waiting list.”
Beyond maintaining a website and Facebook page, the Clymers haven’t advertised. “Right now, we’re just trying to keep up with on-farm demand from customers showing up and wanting fresh shrimp. It’s an exciting problem to have,” Rick says. “I can drive through my cows and tell how they’re doing, but with shrimp, I’m learning to read a whole new set of signs.”
Up to 100 indoor shrimp businesses are operating across the country, says Bob Rosenberry, editor
of Shrimp News International.
In the past five years, indoor shrimp farms in barns, warehouses and utility buildings have been gaining traction. Indoor shrimp farming start-up costs can be relatively low. A 40-tank farm including building costs can total up to $500,000. However, an eight-tank farm that already has a building can be as little as $100,000, he says.
Indoor operations mostly market to customers within 50 miles, willing to pay higher prices for top-quality, fresh shrimp. “The shrimp-farming horizon has never looked better for U.S. producers. Indoor farming is environmentally friendly, and farmers use no chemicals, hormones or anything that affects the reputation of the product. Consumers are highly receptive to clean food. USDA might soon approve an organic standard for shrimp and that would be a big boost for farmers,” Rosenberry notes.
In 2010, Karlanea Brown walked away from hog production to start RDM Aquaculture in Fowler, Ind. RDM turns out 250,000 shrimp each month and still struggles to meet demand.
Brown raises shrimp for consumption as well as hatchlings for other farmers. RDM offers prospective farmers a $100,000 start-up package for an eight-tank system, including a probiotic that consumes shrimp waste. “The beneficial bacteria serve as the filter—Mother Nature doing her thing,” Brown says.
It costs RDM less than $5 per pound to raise shrimp. “We sell 30- to 40-count shrimp for $15 per pound and 20- to 25-count shrimp at $18 per pound,” she says.
“The average American eats 4 lb. of shrimp per year,” Rosenberry adds. “These indoor operations are the future toward meeting growing demand.”