It’s no secret: Americans love shrimp. We enjoy it so much we eat about 1.6 billion pounds annually, which equates to 4.2 pounds per person. Yet only about 4% of it is caught wild in the U.S. because fisheries are tapped out, so most of the shrimp we eat and serve our families is actually raised on farms overseas.
But what if you could go to your local grocery store or meat market and purchase locally raised, straight-from-the-harbor shrimp? That idea isn’t too far off thanks to trū Shrimp, a company that already raises 60,000 pounds of shrimp annually at its headquarter location in Balaton, Minnesota. With plans to build a full-scale production harbor in Madison, South Dakota, trū Shrimp is poised to give us direct access to the food we crave.
We recently chatted with trū Shrimp President & CEO Michael Ziebell and Sales & Marketing Director Jamie Brink Thorsdon to get the skinny on the company and its vision for bringing a whole new type of farming to South Dakota.
Tell us the story behind trū Shrimp.
The idea for trū Shrimp sparked in about 2008 when Brian Knochenmus, the president and CEO of our parent company, Ralco, visited a shrimp farm in Ecuador. The farmer was having a difficult time managing shrimp health due to several factors, including the fact that he was using ocean water, which carries shrimp diseases. Thinking there might be a way to improve on traditional methods, Brian began looking for a solution.
He eventually found one while at Texas A&M University, which led to the development of our Tidal Basin™ technology. It took a few years and a competitive pitch against 30 companies before we finally purchased the patent. Since then, with the addition of our own technologies & processes, we’re seeing great success raising shrimp in just 12 inches of water while simulating ocean currents to help them thrive. We are now working through scaling our system and implementing a plan to raise, package and deliver premium quality shrimp to families across the U.S.
What are the steps for raising shrimp?
They start in a hatchery. Females lay eggs, which grow into post-larvae, our smallest shrimp, and are then transferred to our tidal basins when they are about the size of a mosquito. Over the next few months, they are surrounded by clean water, monitored constantly to ensure they’re healthy and fed a precise diet for growth. Shrimp are harvested at a variety of sizes – the largest at around 35 grams, which is equivalent to a ‘jumbo’ you’d see in the grocery store today.
What do shrimp eat?
About 35% of a shrimp’s diet is protein. In the wild, that might come from algae or other fish, but in our facility it comes from primarily soybeans. We formulate our own feed using soybean meal, oil and isolated soy protein as well as hard red wheat and other ingredients to fuel every stage of growth.
Once our harbor facility is up and running in Madison, we’ll use 15 million pounds of feed annually, sourcing locally grown crops whenever we can.
How do you raise shrimp safely and sustainably?
We’re always looking for ways to grow premium shrimp without diminishing their health or other resources.
On the safety side, being more than 1,000 miles from any ocean greatly improves shrimp health by virtually eliminating exposure to diseases and the need for antibiotics.
Since water is so important to all of us, but especially shrimp, we’ll use a reclamation system at Madison Bay Harbor to clean and “recycle” the water we use. Also, our tidal basins are stackable, meaning our shrimp farm or “reef” grows vertically instead of spreading out on land. Each Harbor tidal basin is about 12 feet wide by just under 600 feet long, and we can stack up to eight.
We’re proud to be an upper Midwest company located close to a safe and abundant supply of crops for feed ingredients. Farmers in South Dakota and surrounding states can send some of their crops down the road to be processed into local shrimp food instead of exporting to fish farms overseas. That will save on the energy and emissions associated with shipping.
Get the scoop on trū Shrimp, its technology and Madison Bay Harbor plans here. Keep exploring the wild and wonderful world of South Dakota ag with this blog on five surprising things grown and raised right here in our state.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.