Integration of Freshwater Prawn Nursery and Growout Systems Into Diversified Farm Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1997: $155,197.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $162,728.00
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
James H. Tidwell
Kentucky State University

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: shellfish


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: multiple cropping, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures


    The U.S. had a trade deficit of over $3 billion in shrimp products in 1999. A series of studies has shown inland production of freshwater prawns to be feasible and profitable. Adding substrate to the ponds, and improved feed and feeding has increased production rates over 170% during the grant period. Since the initiation of this project over 100 acres of production in four states has been initiated with rapid expansion expected. Budgets developed as part of the project indicate the net profits in excess of $2,000 per acre are possible. Regional nurseries appear profitable and are needed to provide seedstock.

    The U.S. imports in excess of $3.0 billion in shrimp products each year. This figure is expected to continue to increase. To address this demand, the culture of a freshwater prawns is being evaluated. Despite obvious economic incentives, shrimp farming in the U.S. has never developed substantially, largely due to requirements that farms be located in coastal regions where wetlands protection laws and competition from recreational uses make land costs prohibitive. Also, production methods for marine shrimp have not been sustainable and water quality and disease problems have decimated production.

    Recent research on the freshwater shrimp Macrobrachium rosenbergii (known as prawns) has found that they grow well at lower temperatures than previously thought. In fact, regional temperatures actually provide a production advantage by delaying sexual maturation and the slowing of growth associated with it. Freshwater prawns can be raised in inland ponds, are self-limiting in their production (lbs/acre) so that a sustainable production level is maintained, and are not susceptible to the devastating marine shrimp diseases.

    Freshwater shrimp also lend themselves to utilization of small ponds and integrate well into diversified operations and schedules of full and part-time farmers. Funding of this grant made possible the development of greenhouse nursery capabilities, commercial adoption and utilization of local by-products and indigenous forage species as feed, and integration with finfish and hydroponic vegetable production. Also, integration and diversification of pond growout through polyculture with finfish species, and development of seasonal rotation utilizing coldwater species, and evaluation of innovative marketing channels and techniques.

    Promising results have been disseminated by a series of training sessions and farm field days for pond procedures and are being utilized by commercial growers. Appropriate data has been published in refereed journals. Marketing and processing information has been disseminated through fact sheets, research bulletins, and the internet. The research funded by this grant has stimulated an increase in commercial production and the new techniques are being utilized by a number of farmers.

    Project objectives:

    1. Determine whether indigenous zooplankton and distillery by-products hold potential as supplemental diets in prawn nursery tanks.

    2. Evaluate the integration of hydroponic vegetable production with prawns during the nursery phase, and growth of finfish species in those nursery tanks after prawns are stocked into ponds.

    3. Evaluate the biological and economic viability of pond polyculture of freshwater prawns with tilapia in cages, yellow perch in cages, and winter rotation of rainbow trout.

    4. To determine the effects of freshwater shrimp stocking density and pond habitat structures on average harvest size, total production of shrimp, and the availability of natural foods under coolwater conditions.

    5. Evaluate the economics of production and marketing of freshwater shrimp, including the influence of various intercropping strategies and local breeding stock facilities.

    6. Evaluate different marketing strategies, market potentials, and distribution strategies and methods for different product forms (live, fresh, and frozen).

    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.