Every morning, Rick Clymer walks into his barn and tends a growing crop. He patiently peers into 13 Walmart 16’ swimming pools to ensure feed, health, and water temperatures are at optimal levels, before moving on to harvesting and filling orders – all year round. A lifelong cattle and turkey producer in southwest Missouri’s Newton County, Clymer has tapped into a heavy demand vein: inland shrimp farming.
Taking Advantage of an Underused Poultry Barn
In 2012, Clymer and son Nathan began sorting ideas on how to squeeze money from an underutilized poultry barn and found their answer 1,300 miles away off the coast of Ecuador in Pacific white shrimp. They jumped into the proverbial pool and retrofitted the barn in 2014. With the building in hand, set-up involved establishment of water movement; feeding systems; and water quality processes, all of which the Clymers designed and modified through trial and error.
By February 2015, the first Circle Sea Shrimp Farm crop 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 22-24 per pound. Inputs are low and include hatchling shrimp, electricity, propane and feed.” And demand? “We charge $15 per pound up to 4 lbs., and $12 per pound after,” Nathan adds. “We’re running a six- to eight-week waiting list.”
Beyond maintenance of a website and Facebook, the Clymers haven’t advertised. “Right now, we’re just trying to keep with on-farm demand from customers showing up and wanting fresh shrimp. It’s an exciting problem to have,” Rick notes. “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.”
Across a 50-year history, shrimp producers in the United States have met with checkered success. However, over the last five years, indoor intensive shrimp farms in barns, warehouses and utility buildings are gaining significant traction. Bob Rosenberry, editor of Shrimp News International, says up to 100 indoor shrimp businesses are operating across the country.
Indoor shrimp farming start-up expenses can be relatively low. A 40-tank farm with building costs included can cost as much as $500,000. However, an eight-tank farm that already has a building can be as little as $100,000, according to Rosenberry.
Indoor operations are feeding a market generally within a 50-mile radius and customers are willing to pay higher prices for top-quality, fresh shrimp.
“The shrimp farming horizon has never looked better for U.S. producers. Why? Indoor farming is environmentally friendly and farmers use no chemicals, hormones, or anything that affects reputation of the product. Consumers are highly receptive to clean food. USDA may soon approve an organic standard for shrimp and that would be a big boost for farmers,” Rosenberry notes.
Trading Hog Production for Shrimp Farming
In 2010, Karlanea Brown walked away from hog production and started RDM Aquaculture in Fowler, Ind. RDM turns out 250,000 shrimp each month and still struggles to meet demand. Brown raises shrimp for consumption and as hatchlings for other farmers. It costs RDM just fewer than $5 dollars per pound to raise shrimp. “Our inputs include feed, labor, electricity, and testing. We sell 30-to 40-count shrimp for $15 per pound and 20-to-25 count shrimp at $18 per pound,” says Brown. “Customers drive from as far away as Kansas and Minnesota to buy our fresh shrimp.”
RDM offers prospective shrimp farmers a $100,000 start-up for an eight-tank system. The package includes consulting, heat sources, solar panels, and testing chemicals--everything except a building.
“We have no water discharge, but use a probiotic that consumes shrimp waste,” Brown describes. “The beneficial bacteria serves as the filter; Mother Nature doing her thing. We harvest the bacteria from the ocean and activate it in our tanks. The older it gets, the better it works.”
“The average American eats 4 lbs. of shrimp per year,” Rosenberry adds. “These indoor operations are the future toward meeting that growing demand.”