MU developing profitable new income stream for farmers.
Agriculture typically brings to mind corn, soybeans and cattle. But research at the University of Missouri could make seafood a major cash crop in the Show-Me State. David Brune, a professor of agricultural systems management in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is developing a seafood production system that is sustainable, scalable and environmentally friendly.
At MU’s Bradford Research Center near Columbia, Brune is raising saltwater shrimp in a greenhouse. The facility holds about one-twentieth an acre of water and is fully stocked with Pacific white shrimp.
Why shrimp? Brune says shrimp is a valuable product that can be produced in a short period.
“I can grow a crop of shrimp here every 120 days,” he says. “If I raise the equivalent of 25,000 pounds per acre of water and I can get $4 a pound, that is a $100,000 cash flow per acre of water every 120 days. That’s not soybeans.”
It costs Brune about $3 a pound to produce the shrimp, so for Missouri shrimp to be economically feasible, it will cost shoppers a bit more than typical supermarket shrimp. But Brune estimates many U.S. consumers would willingly pay a premium price for locally grown, higher quality and sustainably produced shrimp.
“If 10 percent of American consumers would pay a premium price for shrimp, that is 120 million pounds a year,” he says. “We’re importing 1.2 billion pounds of shrimp from Asia. So if only one in 10 consumers would pay a dollar or two a pound extra, that is a $100 million market right there.”