Seeking perfect shrimp larvae … in Pahrump (Nevada)?

Seeking perfect shrimp larvae … in Pahrump (Nevada)?

18 April 2008

New technology assures lack of seafood stench

By CHRISTINA EICHELKRAUT

Most residents probably think the only way to get shrimp in the desert is to head to a restaurant or a grocery store, and truly fresh shrimp simply isn’t an option in a landlocked state.

But thanks to Ganix Bio-Technologies Inc., the best place to get fresh shrimp will soon be Pahrump, where the “aquaculture” firm has chosen to build its newest indoor shrimp farm.

The knee-jerk reaction is quick in coming to mind: Fresh shrimp in the desert? How is that possible?

That’s the question Beau Dempsey, senior scientist and director of operations, answered during a presentation to the large group of business owners and residents who packed into the town annex for the Pahrump Alliance Valley Economic Development meeting Tuesday.

The company grows organically-grown shrimp, meaning all the factors during the shrimp’s growth are controlled.

“A wild-caught shrimp you would think would be an organic shrimp, but that’s not the case because you can’t control any of the factors,” Dempsey explained. “We’re at an indoor facility, we can control 100 percent of the factors in that facility … creating a truly organic product.”

And it doesn’t even require a lot of water.

“We fill our facility one time, and that’s it,” Dempsey explained. “We do not discharge one drop of water.”

The company achieves this by maintaining a constantly sterile environment, controlling nutrient levels in the water (since shrimp deplete the nutrients, after a harvest the levels must be restored).

This is accomplished with a bio-filtration process that cycles the nutrients. It is Ganix’s intellectual property.

“That is the one limiting factor of all aquaculture, is nutrient overload,” Dempsey explained. “Water treatment, golf ponds, anything you can think of, have a nutrient overload issue. And that’s when you get pea soup or a smell or whatever.

“When you can handle your nutrient overload in a system, you don’t need to discharge your water, and that’s what we do.”

All of this means the company can have farms anywhere in the country regardless of the weather and can farm shrimp all year around.

Pahrump, however, does enjoy specific advantages, thanks to neighboring Sin City.

Only 12 percent of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is domestic, and most of that shrimp never makes it farther than about 12 miles from the coasts where the shrimp are harvested.

The rest of the country makes do with shrimp that have been frozen.

“It’s pretty safe to say that you’ve never eaten fresh shrimp in Vegas,” Dempsey said. “If you did, you probably paid $20 to $30 a pound for it.”

Nonetheless, Las Vegas is the largest shrimp consumer in the country, devouring a whopping 60,000 pounds a day, which translates into annual sales of $142 million.

“We’ll produce 750,000 pounds a year at our facility, so we’re not even scratching the market,” Dempsey said.

The shrimp are grown from larvae, which are carefully selected based on their pedigree (yes, just like horses, mother shrimp have pedigree rankings).

“We’re pretty particular about where we get our larvae,” Dempsey said. “We want specific, pathogen-free larvae.”

A Ziploc sandwich bag contains about 100,000 shrimp which can be harvested after 90 to 120 days.

No matter how big the shrimp are at 120 days, that’s when the entire pond is “euthanized,” as Dempsey put it.

The farmers have about 15 minutes to get the shrimp into an environment that’s below 50 degrees, after which they’re rinsed, boxed and taken to restaurants and grocery stores.

“There’s no deveining or beheading at the facility because that’s what the high-end customer wants,” the scientist explained. “They want a whole, fresh shrimp.”

Although Dempsey admitted most people hear “shrimp farm” and immediately think it will smell, he said that isn’t the case at the company’s already existing facilities.

“It smells like the ocean when you walk in,” Dempsey said of the future saltwater facility.

“Our facility is built in the center of town,” Dempsey said. “And no one would even know there’s a shrimp farm there without our big shrimp farm sign out front.”

The North Dakota facility, similar to one to be constructed here, covers 52,400 square feet and has 72 ponds, each holding about 2,000 gallons of water each.

It has an entry facility so workers can get into biological suits and undergo strict sterilization procedures.

The air is also sterilized with ultraviolet rays coming in and out of the facility.

The farm is 70 percent efficient when it comes to recouping cool or heated air, giving it a constant temperature of about 85 degrees.

Dempsey said he estimates the facility will employ about 22 people who can be trained and do not necessarily have to be experienced.

“It’s husbandry,” Dempsey said. “The shrimp don’t go to sleep when you leave at night. They’re like your kids.”

Although a groundbreaking date isn’t set yet, Dempsey said he expects the construction period to last seven to eight months.

Source: Pahrump Valley Times