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March 30, 2015

United States

Massachusetts—Tasty Harvest Shrimp Farm

 

   
  Tony Curtis of Tasty Harvest Shrimp  

 

Tony Curtis did not set out to become a shrimp farmer.  But when he ate the best shrimp dinner he had ever had—freshly caught from a tank in Fowler, Indiana—Curtis decided to go for it.

 

   
  Josh Curtis, left, and Dennis Hiitt of Tasty Harvest Shrimp  

 

“I had saved up some money, and my son Josh wanted to start a family business,” Curtis said.  “We looked at opening a gym, and then we moved on to aquaponic plant raising, but when we went up to the University of Massachusetts, a professor there talked us out of it because it was not commercially feasible.”

 

Before turning to shrimp farming, Curtis considered raising hydroponic vegetables and fish and even took a two-day course on the process, but the start-up expenses and competition kept him looking for the right business.

 

It was a radio report that led Curtis to consider raising shrimp.  He heard Karlanea Brown, co-owner of RDM Aquaculture in Indiana, talking about her shrimp farm.  He checked out RDM’s website and very soon after that was on the phone with Mrs. Brown and asking questions.  Father and son headed out to Indiana to tour the farm.

 

“I was still on the fence, but while we were there, I asked if we could have a meal,” Curtis said.  “They went to the tank, caught them, rinsed them off and placed the shrimp on a hot grill, where they turned a beautiful golden-orange color.  And they were the best shrimp I’d ever had.”

 

Convinced that shrimp farming was the way to go, Curtis returned home to begin the startup phase of his company.  He prepared a business plan, found a site and obtained financing and licenses.

 

Tasty Harvest Shrimp opened in January 2015 and has now begun selling its product to local restaurants.  Among its wholesale customers are Wachusett Country Club, Mezcal Restaurant, Willy’s Restaurant and Kenichi Chinese Restaurant.  It is also open for retail, walk-in business from 1:30 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

 

In addition to his son, Joshua, Curtis’ other children, Beth Ayn and Adam, and his wife, Kathy, all help out on the farm.

 

After checking out a number of properties, Curtis arranged to lease a 7,000-square-foot barn on the grounds of Stone’s Throw Farm and got to work converting the barn into a 19-tank shrimp farm.  Radiant heat was installed along the floor to heat each of the tanks, which are kept at 82 degrees Fahrenheit.  A well was dug and septic system installed, and the walls and ceiling were insulated.

 

Curtis purchased nineteen, aboveground swimming pools (12 feet in diameter).  Five or them are used as nurseries and water storage and fourteen are used to grow the shrimp.

 

Medium shrimp (25 to 29 per pound) are ready for sale after 60 days, but most shrimp are sold between 120 and 160 days.  He raises Pacific white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei).  “They are a saltwater shrimp, but we use fresh water and add sea salt to it,” Curtis said.  “We had the water tested, and we don’t have to treat it at all, except to balance the pH,” which designates the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a solution.

 

The saltwater at Tasty Harvest Shrimp is about 15 parts per thousand, compared to about 30 parts per thousand in full-strength seawater.  Curtis said the lower ratio is both less expensive to maintain and easier on the aerating equipment that continually adds oxygen to the tanks.

 

The shrimp are fed pellets made of 50 percent soy, 45 percent corn and 5 percent fishmeal.  It takes just over a pound of feed to raise a pound of shrimp.

 

The growout system that Tasty Harvest Shrimp uses produces practically no waste.  The shrimp tanks are populated with bacterial bioflocs that consume shrimp waste.  The water is recycled, and the tanks are topped off each week to replace what has evaporated. 

 

“We add no hormones or antibiotics,” Curtis said.  “We don’t need to, and because it’s a completely pollution-free environment, you don’t even have to devein the shrimp.”

 

“Because we are a farm, we are able to sell to the public on the farm,” Curtis said.  “We don’t process anything—we don’t have a license for that yet.”

 

Tasty Harvest Shrimp is the third shrimp farm in Massachusetts.  The first, SKy8 Shrimp Farm in Stoughton was established in 2012 and began selling its shrimp in 2013.  E&T Farms, owned by Ed Osmun of West Barnstable, began raising shrimp in 2014.

 

 

Information: Tony Curtis, Tasty Harvest Shrimp, 71 Lee Street, West Boylston, Massachusetts 01583 (phone 1-508-835-1111, webpage under construction http://tastyharvestshrimp.com).

 

Source: NewsTelegram.com.  West Boylston Startup Hooks into Market for Shrimp Victuals.  Sandy Meindersma (info@telegram.com).  Photos Christine Hochkeppel.  March 29, 2015.

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