Shrimp farming practices snapping its pincers into northern Ohio

SALEM, Ohio – A teacup could have easily held the 4,000 baby shrimp that were delivered to Hiram, Ohio, in early June. The translucent shrimp arrived at their new home at midnight and slipped into the inky water in Russ Fair’s front yard.

These shrimp in Fair’s quarter-acre pond are pioneers – they are being raised at what is thought to be the northernmost shrimp farm in the country.

Researchers from Ohio State University stocked the Portage County pond as part of a project to determine if shrimp will survive this far north.

Netting interest. Since shrimp were moved from Ohio’s restricted aquaculture species list in 2000, shrimp farming is catching on.

Prior research has shown that shrimp farming works in southern Ohio. The test now is to see if shrimp can survive the northern Ohio climate.

Shrimp, more correctly known as freshwater prawn, start to die when water temperature falls to 55 degrees.

With his pond water at 84 degrees, Fair is confident in his shrimp’s success. The water temperature may fluctuate a few degrees but changes aren’t too drastic, he said.

Because the pond is shallow, 4 feet at one end and 3 feet at the other, radiant sunlight keeps the water warm.

It won’t take long to find out if shrimp farming floats in northern Ohio. Harvest will be in mid-September.

Diversification. The young shrimp, about the size of a dime, are purchased from hatcheries in Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi for about 10 cents a piece. After they go into the water around the first of June, they aren’t seen again until harvest in mid-September.

According to the aquaculture department at Ohio State University, freshwater shrimp are a diversification option for time-strapped farmers. Since the growing season is short and the labor is minimal, the shrimper lifestyle meshes with farming.

After the pond is built and the shrimp are in place, the only work before harvest is feeding the shrimp daily and monitoring water quality.

Dollar figures. University of Kentucky budgets estimate profits to be $2,000-$5,000 per acre, based on costs associate with a 1-acre pond.

These numbers vary with the size of the pond.

Farmers raising freshwater shrimp as food must have an aquaculture permit, which costs $50.

Second time around. Although this is the first time Fair has been part of a research project, it is not the first time he has grown shrimp.

Last year he built the pond and stocked shrimp for the first time. Although he harvested most of the shrimp, he said they were small – averaging 28-30 per pound live weight rather than 12 per pound.

Last year, however, Fair was basically on his own trying out shrimp farming. Now with the help of researchers, he is confident his harvest will be better.

Changes include aerating his pond at all times, maintaining better water quality and switching the feeding schedule.

He already knows the market is out there: He advertised in the paper last year and was flooded with more than enough orders. Fair is counting on the same interest this year.

In fact, if all goes well, he’s considering building more ponds.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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