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Dr. David Brune Builds New,
Algal-Based System
to Farm Shrimp in Central Missouri



In July 2011, Dr. David Brune and some of his students at Missouri University’s Bradford Research Farm began building a greenhouse/raceway system for growing marine shrimp year-round in Missouri.  Before joining the staff at Missouri University, Brune worked at Clemson University in South Carolina, where he developed a, partitioned aquaculture system for growing shrimp and tilapia.  He has designed a similar system for central Missouri.  It’s on one-fifteenth of an acre, and he thinks it will produce around 2,500 pounds of shrimp in the next six months.  He wants to prove it’s possible to use sustainable technology to farm shrimp profitably in Missouri.


The System


For experimental and educational purposes, the system, about the size of a tennis court, is divided into two identical sections.  Each section has two raceways (three-feet deep), a tank for tilapia, a water wheel and two tanks that provide additional water treatment.  Brune plans to use algae as his primary water treatment tool.  Shrimp produce carbon dioxide and ammonia, both of which become toxic in intensive shrimp raceways.  But during photosynthesis, algae consume them and produces oxygen in the process.  Brune said, “It rejuvenates the water.”


To keep the algae growing, Brune puts water wheels in the raceways.  The wheels, which look like paddle wheels on a steamboat, keep the water moving and provide a better opportunity for algae to get some sunlight.  “The algae grow four to five times faster than in a still-water pond,” Brune said.


If the algae population becomes excessive, however, it can harm the shrimp population and increase the need to aerate the water.  During his research at Clemson, Brune developed the technique of using tilapia co-cultures to control the algae population, and he’s doing the same thing in Missouri.  He runs the shrimp raceway water through the tilapia tanks, placed along side the shrimp raceways, and the tilapia consume the excess algae.


Reduced sunlight and temperature could cause the algal population to crash, so Brune has added a traditional biological filter to the system in case of an emergency.


He will also have to heat the water in the winter.  “We can’t afford to buy heat, so we are going to put a biomass generator next to the shrimp culture facility,” Brune said.  The generator will burn wood or grass and produce electricity.  Brune hopes to sell the electricity to the city grid and use the waste heat to warm the shrimp.



Selling the System


When he was at Clemson, Brune worked with farmers interested in installing his system.  “I worked there for 20 years, and for the first 10, most fish farmers wouldn’t talk to me.  Many didn’t want to install the system, and they didn’t want their neighbors to install the system because it could lead to potential competition.”


Brune said that money was at the heart of the issue.  Installing his system costs roughly $25,000 an acre, and not every farmer has those resources, so they prefer to stick to their old ways.  He said:  “The only way to know whether you can do this is to build the system and grow the shrimp.  ...I hope to expand to ten acres within three years.  That means success and proving profitability.”


Brune said shrimp farming could be significantly more profitable than corn or soybeans, which only make about a few hundred dollars an acre.  With marine shrimp the farmer could see cash flows from $100,000 to $300,000 per acre per year.


He said: The biomass-generated electricity will need to sell at a higher rate than fossil-fuel-generated electricity, and the fresh shrimp will have to sell in local market at prices greater than frozen shrimp from Asia.  He hopes he can charge a premium price of $4 to $5 a pound for what he calls a “higher-quality, locally grown product.”  “If people are unwilling to pay a premium price, we’re in trouble,” he said.


Information: David Brune, Professor, Food Science, Missouri University Extension, 229 Agricultural Engineering Building, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA (phone 573-882-0689, fax 573-882-0596, email bruned@missouri.edu, webpage http://www.missouri.edu).


Sources: 1. Missourian.  MU Professor to Start Growing Saltwater Shrimp with Sustainable Technology.  Yiqian Zhang.  Picture Credits, Ally Appelbaum.  October 29, 2011. 2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, October 30, 2011.


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