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Down on the Farm Shrimp

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.”