Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks

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Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks
Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks
Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks
Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks

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Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks

Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 @ 03:51:59 EDT by Dawg

Western Kentucky couple raising saltwater shrimp in indoor tanks

OWENSBORO, Ky. - For John and Mary Ebelhar, who have raised hogs and chickens, raising saltwater shrimp has been a learning experience.

"This is just like raising fish in an aquarium," John Ebelhar said, standing near the shrimp tanks in what used to be a farrow barn. "I lost the first batch of shrimp. I killed them, because I didn't have the water right."

"I was just guessing" about the oxygen level in the two shrimp tanks, he said. "Guessing doesn't get it."

Now with better information on how to take care of his shrimp, John Ebelhar is successfully raising his second batch.

The couple plan to hold their first harvest in late summer or early fall. While other farmers in the region have raised freshwater prawns in outdoor ponds, the Ebelhars appear to be the only family with an indoor shrimp farming operation.

According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, about 150 farmers around the state raise freshwater prawns. The department is not aware of anyone besides the Ebelhars who are raising saltwater shrimp to sell, said Angela Caporelli, aquaculture coordinator and marketing specialist.

The Ebelhars started their shrimp operation in March in western Daviess County. The family already had the old farrow barn but still spent about $15,000 on equipment for the shrimp farm.

The shrimp were shipped from Florida in plastic bags, Mary Ebelhar said. When they arrived the shrimp "were about the size of a piece of hair," she said.

The Ebelhars are raising about 30,000 Pacific White shrimp in two tanks. John Ebelhar said the family plans to raise the shrimp to a size of 27 grams - a "jumbo" size - before selling them.

"Twenty-seven grams is the jumbo size, the eating size you get in a restaurant," John Ebelhar said.

Saltwater shrimp, he said, are different than freshwater prawns.

"Prawns are a totally different animal than shrimp," John Ebelhar said. "As far as eating them, you get a lot more meat off of a shrimp than off a prawn."

The Ebelhars set up their shrimp operation with the help of Anthony Pegel, a Tennessee engineer who did graduate work on shrimp production. Pegel said saltwater shrimp can be raised in a smaller pool of water than freshwater prawns, but said water quality is crucial in keeping saltwater varieties alive.

"With freshwater shrimp, you can generally raise one shrimp per square meter," Pegel said. He said with saltwater shrimp, a grower can raise "300 times the shrimp" in the same area.

"The main disadvantage is, since you get them that crowded, water quality becomes very important," Pegel said. "Their waste products can build up quick if you don't take care of the water. You have to have pumps and a wastewater treatment tank. With freshwater shrimp, you just throw them in (the pond) and leave them."

John Ebelhar said the couple plan to sell shrimp by the pound to interested individuals. They have also approached several area restaurants about the possibility of selling them shrimp, he said.

"I have three restaurants who said they might be interested, but they want to come out and look at it," John Ebelhar said. "I've got people who said they want 30 or 40 pounds."

Ebelhar said he hasn't yet set a price for the shrimp. While freshwater ponds only sell one day a season, Ebelhar said that once established, he will be able to sell on a monthly basis.

"I can do this year-round inside," he said.

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