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

1997 Annual Report for LS97-089

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

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


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.

1.) Determine whether indigenous zooplankton have potential as supplemental food in prawn nursery tanks.
2.) Evaluate the integration of hydroponic vegetable production with prawns during the nursery phase, and growth of tilapia species with Echinacea after prawns are transferred into ponds.
3.) Evaluate the biologic and economic viability of pond polyculture of freshwater prawns with tilapia in cages, yellow perch in cages, and winter rotation of brook trout in commercial ponds.
4.) Determine the effects and interactions of prawn stocking rates and added substrate on prawn production.
5.) Evaluate the economics of production of freshwater shrimp.
6.) Evaluate different marketing strategies, market potentials, and distribution strategies and methods for different product forms (live, fresh, frozen).

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.

Editor’s note: A detailed full report complete with growth data and economic budgets is available from the SARE office by contacting Gwen Roland at (770) 412-4786 or