Can technology make the shrimp farming industry more ethical

Indian shrimp from a farm

The family of Debabrata Khuntia has subsisted for generations by fishing in the Bay of Bengal and the rivers and canals of West Bengal's Purba Medinipur.

He recalls having the capacity to catch 10 tonnes of fish annually, of which he would keep some and sell the remainder in the market.

But those times have passed. Fish are scarce, and Debabrata now survives by cultivating tomatoes and brinjal.

He is certain of the culprit. a lot of shrimp farming. ".

He claims that because the money is better in shrimp farming, many farmers have switched over. But doing so necessitates the construction of shrimp ponds, feeding the shrimp, and giving them antibiotics.

When the shrimp are ready for market at the end of the growing cycle, the water is flushed into the river untreated, which, according to Debabrata, has led to pollution.

He claims that the water "turns black and smells.". Even his vegetable crop has been harmed by the bad water.

Other parts of the world have also attributed social and environmental issues to shrimp farming.

India is unlikely to abandon the industry, despite these issues.

Farmed shrimp from India
Indian shrimp from a farm.

You may have noticed, if you're a fan of crustaceans, that we frequently refer to shrimp in this article.

Prawn and shrimp are frequently used interchangeably by people.

These distinctions are made by Jenny Mallinson, who oversaw the aquarium at the University of Southampton for 43 years.

  • In terms of the UK food industry, prawns are large and shrimps are small.
  • British shrimps are grey with black spots and lay flat on the ground with their legs spread out sideways in the wild.
  • Live British prawns typically have a bent body and a single pointed rostrum (a point between the eyes that resembles a beak) when they stand up on their legs.
  • Additionally transparent, prawns occasionally have red markings, and some can change color to match the red or green seaweed they are living in.

It should be noted that the plural of shrimp, not shrimps, is used in the US, India, and other countries around the world.

Shrimp farming has increased incomes in rural areas and developed into a profitable export industry. The largest exporter of frozen shrimp is India, with a market worth nearly $5 billion (£4 billion) annually.

Some, however, believe that it could be done in a manner that is less harmful to the environment.

According to Rajamanohar Somasundaram, chief executive and co-founder of AquaConnect, "Around one million rural farmers and coastal communities depend on shrimp and fish aquaculture, but traditional farming practices prevent them from achieving production efficiency and fail to predict diseases.".

AquaConnect, a company founded in 2017, offers fish farmers advice through an app. It has created artificial intelligence that considers the farmer's resources and can offer guidance on the best feed amounts to use or how to raise the quality of the water.

According to Mr. Somasundaram, aquaculture farming in India is incredibly unscientific.

Others in business want technology to have even more influence over how much shrimp is produced.

Shrimp farm in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha, India
The majority of shrimp farming in India is done in sea cages or ponds like this one in Jagatsinghpur, in the eastern state of Odisha.

Currently, ponds or sea cages are used for the vast majority of fish and shrimp farming in India, but there is another method.

Water is circulated through tanks in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). Very little water is lost because it is constantly filtered and monitored.

There is a much lower chance of local environment pollution when conditions are tightly controlled.

The tanks can be placed anywhere since they don't require a natural water source, perhaps close to large cities that could serve as markets for fresh produce.

More business technology:

One of the original businesses in India's aquaculture sector is Kings Infra Ventures, whose chairman and managing director is Shaji Baby John.

In collaboration with a Japanese company, his business has created two pilot plants and an RAS for shrimp farming. One is indoor, the other is outside.

According to Mr. John, his RAS can produce five shrimp cycles annually because the water conditions can be carefully managed and the shrimp are closely watched. Usually, pond-based shrimp farms can only support two shrimp.

Because of the increase in productivity, a 1,000 square meter facility could produce up to 45 tonnes of shrimp annually.

According to Mr. John, "because it's a controlled environment, the production quality is better, and losses are limited.".

However, the cost of all that technology makes it unlikely that RAS for shrimp will catch on in India.

Shrimp farm in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha, India
Pond-based shrimp farming is less expensive to start up than high-tech alternatives.

According to Victor Suresh, president of the Society of Aquaculture Professionals, "there is very little potential for RAS to become the mainstream production technology for shrimp in India.".

He emphasizes that "RAS has very high capital and operating costs.". According to him, RAS may be able to compete in areas close to major cities where there may be a market for expensive fresh and live shrimp.

But for the time being, that is not a significant market for shrimp farmers in India.

"Earthen ponds provide the most economically viable option for a country like India where several hundred thousand tonnes of shrimp are raised by mostly small farmers to be processed and sold into export markets," he claims.

Mr. John acknowledges that RAS farming requires a large initial investment, but claims that the quality of the fish produced by his RAS systems is higher and the cost per shrimp is lower than in conventional ponds.

Additionally, he claims that the new facilities should have a low carbon footprint thanks to the use of solar panels for electricity.

We chose aquaculture, putting a strong emphasis on environmentally friendly and sustainable practices with no use of antibiotics and no waste, the man claims.

However, Rajamanohar Somasundaram of AquaConnect claims that shrimp farmers are a cautious group.

Shrimp farming is a sector with both high risk and high reward. Precision is required for technology solutions in this industry, or else significant losses will result. This might be the cause of farmers' skepticism of technology.

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