National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Technology Program (NIST-ATP)

U.S. consumers represent the largest shrimp market in the world, and consumer demand continues to grow significantly each year. From 1998 to 2002, shrimp consumption in the U.S. grew an estimated 25 percent, and per capita consumption reached a record 3.7 pounds in 2002, up from 3.4 pounds in 2001. Despite this incredible demand, domestic production of shrimp is low, resulting in a $3 billion federal trade deficit in shrimp products. Increasing the domestic supply of wild-caught shrimp is an unlikely solution, due to high cost and over fishing.

Although U.S. production of shrimp from aquaculture increased from an estimated 10 million pounds in 2001 to 12 million pounds in 2002, this represents a meager amount relative to the U.S. demand for shrimp products and total world production of cultured shrimp.

If a significant increase in domestic shrimp production from aquaculture does not occur, the U.S. shrimp supply will remain under foreign control, with an ever increasing trade imbalance and inferior products for the American consumer. In light of the significant demand for shrimp products in the U.S. and a limited domestic supply, a tremendous opportunity exists for the expansion of a U.S. shrimp aquaculture industry. For this to occur, critical research is needed to develop new and viable alternatives to traditional shrimp farming.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program (NIST-ATP) awarded funds to a joint-venture team to develop technologies that will benefit the U.S. shrimp farming industry.

The joint-venture team consists of researchers from the OI, as well as Zeigler Brothers, Inc. (ZBI), and the Kahuku Shrimp Company (KSC).

The goal of the project is to develop an economically viable, environmentally sustainable system for shrimp production that would prevent the introduction of pathogens into the culture environment, and simultaneously mitigate negative environmental effects typically associated with traditional shrimp farming.

The system would require no water exchange and would allow shrimp production to be moved inland, away from sensitive coastal areas. This gBiosecure Zero-Exchange Shrimp Technologyh (BioZEST) system will pave the way for the expansion of a domestic shrimp aquaculture industry by providing an alternative approach to grow high-quality, disease-free shrimp in an environmentally safe and profitable manner.

Research on the BioZEST system focuses on four interrelated areas, including:

  • Specific pathogen free (SPF), genetically improved shrimp
  • A consortium of microorganisms that supports rapid shrimp growth, maintains acceptable water quality, and excludes opportunistic pathogens
  • Exogenous feeds and nutrients that support superior shrimp growth and maintain a healthy microbial community
  • A biosecure production system within which the shrimp, microbes, and exogenous feed interact

OI contributes its innovative shrimp production technology and stock of SPF shrimp that are essential to the project. In addition, OI scientists are involved in research on shrimp genetics, microbes, feeds, and systems development. OI also serves as the joint venture administrator.

Zeigler Bros., Inc. (ZBI), located in Gardners, Pennsylvania, manufactures and distributes a variety of specialty animal feeds to more than 30 countries worldwide. Zeigler products include aquaculture feeds for finfish and crustacean, feeds for companion animals including pet and zoo animals, and feeds for laboratory animals used in biomedical research. ZBI will lead the development of novel feeds and feed management protocols to promote shrimp growth and sustain an optimal microbial consortium.

Kahuku Shrimp Company (KSC), located in Kahuku, Hawaii, is a shrimp farming and marketing company. KSC will contribute its expertise in shrimp production in Hawaii and the marketing of shrimp in Hawaii and the Pacific region. KSC will provide its shrimp production facilities to the research project for shrimp growout trials and will demonstrate new technology to other interested companies.

The joint venture research team also includes, as subcontractors, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the Conservation Fund's Freshwater Institute, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.