Shrimp farming in Florida holds great potential, but also is problematic for several reasons. Florida's subtropical environment provides excellent conditions for aquaculture, but hurricanes and viruses may damage stocks or inadvertently release non-native shrimp species into coastal waters. Freshwater farming of marine shrimp species has provided an alternative to traditional methods, allowing indoor farming in non-coastal areas.
Freshwater Shrimp Farming
Recent advancements in aquaculture allow near-freshwater (i.e., sodium levels less than 300 parts per million) culture of a marine shrimp species, the whiteleg shrimp or Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei). These shrimp are cultured in indoor, recirculating systems, allowing continuous production and reduced risk of viral contamination. In addition, these indoor systems provide aquaculturists the freedom to produce shrimp in any area of the state--not only in coastal regions--and also reduces the risk of incidental release of non-native species into Florida's waters.
Shrimp Farms in Florida
According to the U.S. Marine Shrimp Farming Program (USMSFP), there are currently only three or four active shrimp aquaculture facilities in Florida. These freshwater marine shrimp farms are as follows: Indian River Aquaculture, LLC in Vero Beach, OceanBoy Farms, Inc. in Clewiston and Shrimp Improvement Systems in Islamorada. The USMSFP also lists a fourth Florida shrimp farming operation, Ocean Garden--however, the Ocean Garden website does not indicate any current operations in Florida.
Florida Aquaculture Certification
Shrimp farming in Florida requires aquaculture certification by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In order to become certified, a facility must submit an application, pay a $100 annual fee and schedule an inspection visit. After certification, Florida shrimp farms must adhere to certain best management practices (BMPs) set by FDACS for all aquaculture facilities--these BMPs serve to prevent accidental escape of cultured animals and reduce pollution of adjacent or nearby waterways. In return, certified aquaculturists are exempt from wildlife laws for wild-harvested species, and pay lower property taxes and lower sales tax on feed and other business-related items.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services contracted Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to study the effectiveness of various shrimp farm designs and develop more efficient, low-cost, low-maintenance designs for indoor farming. These researchers found that an indoor system housed in a quonset-style greenhouse worked well for shrimp farming in Florida. They used a centrifugal pump and biofilters to reduce maintenance, and reduced the cost of building these indoor systems by excavating the floor of the greenhouse to increase the size (i.e., depth) of the holding tanks. Most importantly, they found that a three-phase system that utilized separate nursery, intermediate and final growing tanks greatly increased shrimp production.
Problems with Shrimp Farming in Florida
As a graduate student at Florida International University, Kathy Stone studied shrimp aquaculture in India in comparison with shrimp farming in Florida, in the hope that technologies used in Florida could be applied to improve shrimp farming in India. However, she found that shrimp farming in Florida often fails to achieve economic viability for several reasons. High land costs and high overhead yielded high market prices for Florida-farmed shrimp, whereas imported farmed shrimp were much less expensive. As a result, Florida shrimp farmers served merely to serve a niche market of "localvores" (i.e., consumers preferring locally grown foods) and organic shoppers. In addition, hurricanes and contamination from mosquito control practices following hurricanes greatly impacted Florida shrimp farmers and increased costs. Indoor farming can help to eliminate many of these problems, increasing the productivity and reducing costs associated with shrimp farming in Florida.
- Photo Credit shrimp image by Liz Van Steenburgh from Fotolia.com