Indoor shrimp farm opens near Lewes
The Cape Region hosts a variety of attractions from Fort Miles at Cape Henlopen State Park to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton. Now, the region will host a new enterprise: an indoor shrimp farm.
Robert Atallian, a seafood store operator turned antique shop owner, can now add farmer to his resume. Atallian of Millsboro owns and operates Practically Yours antiques on Route 9 west of Lewes.
“It all started with my son while he was at Cape High,” said Atallian. “I wanted him to have a job for the summer, so I decided he would sell shrimp in front of the store.”
County officials sent Atallian a registered letter stating he could not sell shrimp there.
“It boiled down to that I could not sell the shrimp because I hadn’t raised them,” Atallian said. “Roadside farm stands are allowed because the vegetables are grown there. So I decided I would invest in shrimp farming, and then I can raise them and sell them.”
Atallian set aside a portion of the antique store, purchased four used shellfish tanks from Rhode Island and set up his operation.
“The county and board of public health don’t know what to do with me because I am not cooking or freezing the shrimp,” Atallian said.
He plans to raise the baby shrimp and sell them to customers when they get big enough. The four tanks are all self-contained, meaning they do not drain outside or create any runoff. Atallian is working with Delaware State University students to monitor the shrimp. Each tank has an oxygen generator and aerator to mimic the ocean.
He will rotate the shrimp through the four tanks as they get bigger. The shrimp eat a special diet, which Atallian purchases from a supplier. He also uses chemicals called Instant Ocean in each tank to provide the proper environment. He also uses bio-floc, which are bacteria that coexist with the shrimp. The bio-floc or bacterial clumps feed off the shrimp waste. As the shrimp get bigger, then the shrimp feed on the floc, said Atallian.
“I’ve done a lot of research and looked at a lot of different systems,” Atallian said. “I hope the investment I’ve made so far pays off, but I will just have to see how it goes.”
Atallian said many customers at his antiques store have already told him they will buy the live shrimp from him.
“No one around here is selling fresh shrimp,” Atallian said. “I know there is a market because when my son was selling here we would sell about 350 pounds of shrimp in a weekend.”
Atallian expects to get his first shipment of 10,000 shrimp larvae from Florida in July. It takes about four months before the shrimp reach the right size, he said.
Shrimp farming on the rise
The majority of shrimp eaten in the United States comes from shrimp farms.
According to World Wildlife Fund, approximately 5 million metric tons of shrimp are produced annually on shrimp farms. Shrimp farms are being created throughout the world to help meet the demand for shrimp.
Shrimp aquaculture, which increased nine fold during the 1990s and is one of the fastest growing forms of aquaculture, now accounts for one-third of the shrimp produced globally.