By DAN MALEY
Let’s play a game. I want you to think of a food product. It has to be locally grown, associated with summer weather and barbecues, and in abundant supply. It must fit into the palm of your hand. And it has to raise an eyebrow, if not a look of surprise from you when I reveal its identity.
“Wait,” you say. “Give me a minute – I know this one.”
Except you probably don’t, and are likely as bemused as I was when I first heard that there is a shrimp farm, right here in Daviess County. That’s right – shrimp; a marine crustacean, usually located in the ocean. So how did they get here?
Let me introduce you to Steve Stoll, of Steve’s Shrimp Farm
, who started this new venture early in 2015 on the eastern borders of the county, near Loogootee. With help from his family he constructed an outbuilding tailored for shrimp farming.
Impressively, the building is completely off grid, powered primarily through a series of solar panels located on the roof. These facilitate blowers for heat and oxygen supplies, both vitally important to maintaining stable conditions for raising shrimp, a complex and sometimes delicate process.
Although shrimp can survive in a range of temperatures, they thrive best at a temperature of eighty-five degrees fahrenheit. Steve designed a radiant flow heat system, utilizing pools on the floor. A water salinity of 32% is also an important factor – after all these are saltwater animals.
Establishing good water can be difficult, and measurements for acid levels, ammonia, and nitrite are all regularly recorded. A filter system is used to help keep these levels in check. An important addition is Biofloc, a probiotic bacteria needed for the shrimp’s health, required in 7-12 parts per thousand.
As is typical with new ventures, Steve acknowledges a degree of challenge in the beginning. “Getting good waters, acclimatizing and dealing with ammonia spikes… the first six months of growing shrimp was the hardest”. One episode of high ammonia left just two hundred alive of a pool originally containing five thousand, though Steve is confident that now the water system is established, incidents like that should be a thing of the past.
Once the White Pacific shrimp arrive from a hatchery in Florida, they take around three hours to acclimatize. At this stage they are known as Post-Larvae, and are the size of an eyelash. The following figures show two more steps in the maturation of the shrimp.
Nearly Ready for Market
“It takes around four to five months for a complete cycle, from post-larvae to selling,” says Steve. “and I have two nursery tanks, holding ten thousand each, and they are split then into grow up tanks with around five thousand apiece.” With eight tanks neatly arranged in an elaborate system of pipes and filters, the building’s capacity reaches forty-thousand shrimp.
Often, frozen shrimp varieties shipped in from other countries have been found to fall foul of the high standards we desire of our food, but there are no such fears here. At Steve’s Shrimp Farm, no antibiotics are used, and they are fed good food. In fact they are so fresh, they are still alive when sold to you in bags of ice!
Having consistent local sales is Steve’s primary aim, but he is open to development. Currently he operates a walk-in service for customers, selling in quantities that you and I might consider for our cookouts, business dinners or for camping. And being a friendly fellow, he will welcome you for a tour of the facility if you are interested in learning more.
Aquaculture facts about Indiana
Here are some of the facts included in the picture above:
- Global fish consumption has doubled in the last 40 years.
- By 2030, global demand for aquaculture fish is predicted to increase by 40 million tons to 100 million tons
- Technology lets farmers recirculate and clean the water to allow reuse of 99.64% of the water.
- Fish grown to Indiana include tilapia, yellow perch, prawns, shrimp, bait fish, catfish, hybrid striped bass, bluegill and decorative fish.
Speaking of tours, let’s transport ourselves now to the southern edge of Daviess County. Idyllic pools, deer running on the green, snapping turtles wading in the shallows, eagles and herons procuring their next meal. And what better place for a bird to feast than on the numerous fish to be found at the East Fork Hatcheries
I have always found DNR staff to be friendly, competent folk, so it was no surprise when I was cordially welcomed to the hatchery and given an impromptu tour by amenable property manager Dylan Sickles, hailing from upstate New York, and Jessica DeLosh, a naturalist aide.
The process of raising fish is rather complex, a combination of so many techniques, novel equipment and ingenious methods. Adult fish are caught, eggs and milt (sperm) collected humanely, mixed in a big bowl, passed into tubes, then into large jars, into trays, until they are big enough to put into the tanks, then into the pools, where they thrive and grow. They are then relocated to stock various public waters across Indiana, heading to lakes like Patoka and Monroe, and of course Glendale’s Dogwood Lake.
Walleye and Muskellunge are the current crop, but Striped, Hybrid-striped and Largemouth Bass, Hybrid Walleye, and Channel Catfish are also raised here. All of this hard work goes to provide a range of well stocked public waters for one of America’s favorite pastimes – fishing.
Not that you can fish at the Hatchery of course – give the little ones a chance – but at nearby Dogwood Lake for example, there are some truly beautiful spots in which you can while away the hours in the summer sun, reflecting on the great fun you are having and what an amazing deal it is to only have to pay $17 for an annual fishing license. Funds from licenses go directly to the Hatchery, making it the best way to support their work.
And of course, licenses are free for under eighteens. In line with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources “Go FishIN
” initiative, our friends at the East Fork Hatchery are willing to give you some guidance and show you a few tips to get you started on your journey to becoming a pro fisher! Yet if you should fail to catch anything, you could always buy yourself a pound of shrimp from Steve.