Land-based shrimp aquaculture done right

There are and always will be critics of the land-based movement -- but taking that investment risk will pay off in the long-run.

Land-based aquaculture -- it’s a vexed and much-debated subject in the fish farming industry. Over the years, many have attempted to build up profitable operations, and just as many have failed.

But when I attended EuroShrimp in Bremen last month, there was a sense of excitement in the air, and speakers and delegates of the two-day event delivered an important message: "we can."

Some called land-based shrimp farming -- in recirculation aquaculture, or biofloc systems -- the future of European aquaculture.

The list of attendees clearly showed interest is growing. A number of facilities went online in the past few years, in Germany in particular, and the start-ups are hoping to cash in on the trend for fresh, locally produced food.

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But looking back at the long row of failed attempts in the history of land-based aquaculture one simply has to ask the question: why will it be different this time? What has changed?

A number of facts still speak against the land-based shrimp aquaculture movement.

Technology and equipment is still in developmental stages, mortalities are high, there are hurdles of getting shrimp post larvae into the EU (with only one US supplier approved for export by the European Union), and the investment and operational costs are still sky-high.

In addition, no one is able to give a clear timeline on the return on investment: it simply is a big unknown.

But to all the critics out there: name one entrepreneurial (fish farming) industry that hasn't faced hurdles at its beginnings or at some point along the way?

Norwegian cage salmon farming? Nope. Vannamei shrimp farming in ponds? Nope.

So my message to the innovators and risk-takers: don't let yourselves get down. There are current challenges and there will be more in the future but you've already come a long way.

What companies should bank on now is cooperation. Speak to similar-minded entrepreneurs, be open about your progress -- and set-backs for that matter -- share information, research and knowledge.

Cooperate with researchers and scientists, such as from the Centre of Aquaculture Research (ZAF), which is run by the Alfred-Wegener-Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Reach out to those few industry heavy-weights, such as Futurefish Aquaculture's Gerrit Quantz, who have been putting time, money and effort into developing farming methods and models over the years.

Get in touch with feed and nutrition giants such as Zeigler Bros. in the United States, which have a clear interest in supplying the fledgling land-based shrimp farming sector.

Learn from past mistakes, ask the right questions to the right people and then simply try it out.

In the worst case, you'll lose some money.

Or you'll go down in the industry's history books as one of the pioneers of a movement that took the fish farming world by storm.

Comments? Email me at elisabeth.fischer@intrafish.com

Twitter: EF_IntraFish

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