Environmental concerns

Shrimp may be Missouri’s next sustainable cash crop

 

Missouri agriculture typically brings to mind corn, soybeans and cattle, but research at the University of Missouri may make shrimp a cash crop in the Show-Me State.

David Brune, an MU Extension professor of food science, is developing a seafood production system that is sustainable, scalable and environmentally friendly.

At MU’s Bradford Research Center, Brune is raising saltwater shrimp in a greenhouse. The facility holds about 1/20 of an acre of water and is fully stocked with Pacific white shrimp.

Brune said shrimp is a valuable product that can be produced in a short period of time.

“I can grow a crop of shrimp here every 120 days,” he said. “If I raise the equivalent of 25,000 pounds per acre of water and I can get $4 a pound, that is a $100,000 cash flow per acre of water every 120 days. That’s not soybeans.”

It costs Brune about $3 a pound to produce the shrimp, so his shrimp will cost shoppers a bit more than typical supermarket shrimp for Missouri shrimp to be economically feasible. But Brune estimates many U.S. consumers would willingly pay a premium price for locally grown, higher-quality and sustainably produced shrimp.

David Brune, an MU Extension professor of food science, shows shrimp raised in a sustainable saltwater system.

“If 10 percent of American consumers would pay a premium price for shrimp, that is 120 million pounds a year,” he said. “We’re importing 1.2 billion pounds of shrimp from Asia. So if only one in 10 consumers would pay a dollar or two a pound extra, that is a $100 million market right there.”

Brune, who is also an MU Extension specialist, said modern seafood consumption is completely unsustainable. Expanding or even simply sustaining the seafood business will require aquaculture.

“We’re overfishing the world’s oceans in almost every species,” he said. “Nearly all of the aquaculture that is being done internationally is itself unsustainable.”

The system Brune has developed uses algae to control water quality by providing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide and ammonia. Excess algae can also be put to good use.

“You can’t keep growing algae forever in a closed system, so we harvest the algae using brine shrimp,” Brune said.

There are ultimately four byproducts of harvested algae: feed, fuel, methane and fertilizer. Brine shrimp mass can be used as a fish meal replacement to feed Pacific white shrimp. Brine shrimp waste can go into an anaerobic digester to produce methane to power the physical system, and effluent from the digester contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be used as fertilizer.

“We know that we can grow shrimp and provide seafood in a sustainable manner, in an environmentally compatible way, in a way that has zero discharge,” Brune said. “That doesn’t mean anything to anyone unless we do it cost effectively. So after I make this a technical success, I’ve got to make it so farmers can afford to do this and make a living at it. That is the final objective.”

 

The Missouri Master Naturalist Program is a chapter-based program developed and facilitated in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation. For 10 years, the Master Naturalist Program has offered local, community-based training for volunteers around the state.

•  The Missouri Master Naturalist Program trained 161 new volunteers in FY 2014, for a total of 1,508 volunteers trained since 2004.

•  Volunteers provided 53,000 hours of community service during the past year with more than 100 local chapter partners. More than 260,000 hours of community service have been conducted since 2004.

•  The economic impact of Missouri Master Naturalist volunteer service during the past year is valued at $1,299,649. The cumulative economic impact of Missouri Master Naturalist volunteer service since 2004 is valued at $5,154,583.