Final report for FNC18-1125

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $5,771.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: HCGI Aquaculture
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Brent Hood
Hood Consulting LLC
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Project Information

Description of operation:

I am working in conjunction with James Tuckness, owner of Wilson's Creek Farm (WCF). WCF covers 41 acres of urban farmland in and just outside of Springfield, MO. James has planted blueberries and should begin a "pick-your-own" retail operation in two years. I researched other uses for his land and discovered raising fresh-water prawns (M. Rosenbergii), after extensive conversations and a visit to Aquaculture of Texas, the premier supplier of shrimp juveniles for grow-out. Craig Upstrom has raised these shrimp for over 25 years and has successfully raised them in permanent tanks. I have modified his design to use temporary tanks to allow a smaller footprint that is suitable for backyard/urban farming as a stand alone effort or part of an aquaponics system. I am a retired chemistry professor (PhD Purdue) and my undergraduate degree is in environmental chemistry. My two-year research effort has required me to use my knowledge of aquatic biomes in a science-based farming effort. My intent is to use what I have learned to streamline the aquaculture model I have developed from Mr. Upstrom's original experiments to provide an economical algorithm for individual urban farmers. The design uses minimal water and power compared to traditional pond-based shrimp farming. The power is solar-generated to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels. The materials are predominantly post consumer. The surface area available to the shrimp is greater than the "footprint" of the tank because of internal racks of substrates (mesh-covered frames). A typical 150 sq ft tank has nearly 1000 sq ft of surface area for the shrimp to grow without pressure from their aggressive peers. 1000 shrimp can easily be used in such an enclosure with the average net yield (from Mr. Upstrom's efforts) greater than 90%. With 1 sq ft available for each shrimp, the final grow-out weight is between 3 and 4 ounces when ambient conditions allow.

Summary:

Freshwater shrimp production has been encouraged by UNESCO to reduce pressure on salt-water fisheries. The current model for freshwater shrimp farming involves labor-intensive practices that require large land areas. Our project is the continuation of a two-year effort to develop a successful model for tank-based shrimp production that can be used in both rural and urban settings. The land and water use for our model is minimal compared to traditional methods, as our model uses solar power, occupies less than 150 square feet, and uses less than 400 cubic feet of water. The reduced power and labor requirements allow increased profitability. We have trouble- shooted the changes from traditional methods to tank-based cultivation and are asking for a grant to implement a model urban shrimp farm with documentation that will be distributed for other urban and rural farmers use. Access to the all-natural protein produced in our model will improve the quality of life /health of the farmers that use it.

Project Objectives:
  1. Establish dedicated domain for backyard shrimping website and
  2. Verify sourcing and cost for model containment
  3. Monitor and determine accurate costs for power, water,
  4. Verify actual stock survival and end weight per shrimp at the end of the growing
  5. Host harvest open house for all-natural food community through both wilsonscreekfarm.com and hcgiaquaculture.hoodconsultinggroup.com websites and posted fliers in local all-natural/organic grocery

Research

Materials and methods:

I am working in conjunction with James Tuckness, owner of Wilson’s Creek Farm (WCF). WCF covers 41 acres of urban farmland in and just outside of Springfield, MO. James has planted blueberries and should begin a “pick-your-own” retail operation in two years. I researched other uses for his land and discovered raising fresh-water prawns (M. Rosenbergii), after extensive conversations and a visit to Aquaculture of Texas, the premier supplier of shrimp juveniles for grow-out. Craig Upstrom has raised these shrimp for over 25 years and has successfully raised them in permanent tanks. I have modified his design to use temporary tanks to allow a smaller footprint that is suitable for backyard/urban farming as a stand alone effort or part of an aquaponics system. I am a retired chemistry professor (PhD Purdue) and my undergraduate degree is in environmental chemistry. My two-year research effort has required me to use my knowledge of aquatic biomes in a science-based farming effort. My intent is to use what I have learned to streamline the aquaculture model I have developed from Mr. Upstrom’s original experiments to provide an economical algorithm for individual urban farmers. The design uses minimal water and power compared to traditional pond-based shrimp farming. The power is solar-generated to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels. The materials are predominantly post consumer. The surface area available to the shrimp is greater than the “footprint” of the tank because of internal racks of substrates (mesh-covered frames). A typical 150 sq ft tank has nearly 1000 sq ft of surface area for the shrimp to grow without pressure from their aggressive peers. 1000 shrimp can easily be used in such an enclosure with the average net yield (from Mr. Upstrom’s efforts) are greater than 90%. With 1 sq ft available for each shrimp, the final grow-out weight is between 3 and 4 ounces when ambient conditions allow.

Research results and discussion:
  1. We were able to determine that the cost for materials and livestock to establish a 2000 gallon shrimp tank with substrates, a 350W solar power system, air and water pumps, with the associated feed and chemical supplies was $1637. We kept receipts and added them up to obtain the total materials expenditures.
  2. We produced 42 shrimp at 23 grams (20-count) each from 100 stocked juveniles. The body weight increased 20 grams each. Typical yield for pond-raised shrimp is 90%, over twice our yield. The body mass is comparable to pond raised shrimp, though we had 1/2 the growth time for a typical pond. Our data was from counting and from weighing each shrimp on a digital scale.
  3. We established a website, backyardshrimping.com and am producing an eBook based to the information. We have attached a first draft of the book.
Participation Summary
02 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations

Participation Summary

3 Farmers
5 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

At the beginning of the project we consulted with two shrimp farmers/livestock suppliers. We also consulted an aquaponics filtering supplier to determine the capacity that was needed to maintain healthy chemical levels in the pool. A team from SARE visited the project site and I was able to explain the various features of the project. There is a short video that was produced from the visit at the SARE YouTube channel. We have produced a website, backyardshrimping.com, that contains information needed to set up outdoor shrimp pools. We have produced a draft eBook from this information and have attached a copy of it to this report.

We had a reduced growing season and were only able to raise the shrimp for 90 days. During that time, each shrimp gained 20 grams body weight (equivalent to a 20-count shrimp). From 100 shrimp we obtained 42 shrimp. Typical shrimp ponds have around 90% yields.

Learning Outcomes

4 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:
  • I have learned the exacting nature of the construction of a viable swimming pool/biofilter/aeration system as a m. Rosenbergii living environment
  • Perhaps the greatest lesson is that raising shrimp in a recycled-water environment is very different that raising them in ponds. Ground-based ponds or sunken tanks provide greater thermal stability, which proved to be a key characteristic that our system lacked. Our above-ground pools were susceptible to high winds (we lost one pool because of greater than 35 mph wind) and temperature variations as great as 30 degrees in a 24-hour period. A feature that could help stabilize this that was not used would be wrapping the pools in fiberglass insulation batting. We did use a thermal solar cover for each pool, but this was not sufficient to keep the water warm during less that 70o external temperatures. An addition of a solar water heater box would help while not requiring additional electricity demand on the solar power system.
  • Aquatic plants such as water lilly or duckweed should be used to control the nitrate output of the bacteria used to control the shrimp chemical excrement. This would control algae growth and potential algae blooms that can remove oxygen from the water.
  • The power requirement for operating the water and air pumps can be reduced significantly from what was implemented. We used a suggestion from a grant reviewer and tripled our power generation. By using more efficient water and air pumps, we were able to reduce our effective power use to under 150 W.
  • The growing season at our latitude is too short for large shrimp mass. While we did have a shortened growing season because of an early loss of livestock, the 90-day cycle we were able to achieve resulted in an average body mass of 23 grams or a 20-count shrimp. From 100 stocked shrimp we netted 40 shrimp. Raising the shrimp indoors or in a climate controlled environment such as a high tunnel should allow a longer growing season.

Project Outcomes

01 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
Recommendations:
  1. Raising shrimp in pools is a viable activity in controlled climate conditions. While the shrimp did grow and we had shrimp to harvest, the weather conditions had a negative effect. We had unusually warm temperatures at the crucial beginning of the project that caused unusual algae growth that killed the originally stocked shrimp. We restocked shrimp in July and had control of the algae. A aquarium shrimp producer suggested introducing pond plants such as water lilly to control the nitrates generated by the active biofilter, which would reduce the algae growth.
  2. The grant reviewers suggested that more solar power generation would be required. We implemented a 350 W solar power system (3 times the power suggested in the original proposal. This proved to be sufficient for most of the project with the exception of 5 days of overcast conditions which reduced the power generation. The backup battery flow charger was sufficient to maintain the battery and provide continued air and water flow. We would suggest increasing the battery bank to provide 180 amp-hour reserve if no electricity is available.
  3. We originally used 2 commercial aquarium pumps with a total of 130 L/min flow. We eliminated the higher-output pump that required nearly twice the power as the other pump. This reduced our power requirement by 2/3 for the aeration of the pool. We monitored the dissolved oxygen content while running the pump on a 3-hour cycle. This also reduced the power requirements and oxygen levels remained above the research suggested minimum level.
  4. We originally considered using the pump that came with the pool to provide water flow to the biofilter. We discovered that it became clogged with debris frequently and would stop pumping. We replaced that pump with a lower-Watt submersible pump that pumped directly into the biofilter and provided the necessary water exchange between the pool and the biofilter. We also added an aerial spray at the output of the biofilter to provide additional aeration and cooling of the pool.
  5. We recommend an investigation of using an enclosure for the pool, such as a high tunnel for climate control.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.