28 Nov 2018
Shrimp Farm Nurseries: The Perfect Combination of Intensive and Extensive Farming?
Written by Zach Stein

Shrimp Farming Nurseries: The Best Way to Combine Intensive and Extensive Farming?

Shrimp Farming Nurseries are smaller enclosed areas of a shrimp farm that operate like miniature hyper-intensive systems for the PL’s when they first arrive on the farm.

In my travels in Ecuador and SE Asia, I have seen them become increasingly popular, particularly on extensive farms. In this post, I am going to share some of my thoughts on the advantages of a nursery system and why they may be very common on the shrimp farm of the future.

How a Shrimp Farm Nursery Works

A shrimp farm nursery is a series of enclosed ponds (either plastic-lined or concrete) that shrimp spend their first 20-30 days on the farm before being transferred to a grow-out pond.

The nurseries are stocked hyper-intensively at this point and managed very closely with significant attention to the quality of the probiotics in the water, feed consumption, and water quality.

After 20-30 days the animals are transferred from the nursery to the grow-out ponds where they spend the next 50-60 days reaching full maturity.

Why Use a Nursery on Your Shrimp Farm

Nurseries on a shrimp farm offer farmers a number of advantages compared to the traditional method of taking PL’s directly from the hatchery and keeping them unfed or on special diets in the grow-out until day 20-30. In no particularly order, this is what stands out to us:

  • More cycles per grow out pond. One of the main reasons plant farmers use greenhouses, is it allows them to get a head start growing their crops before the outdoor environment is ready for them. The same is in a shrimp nursery. By growing a 10 hectare pond’s worth of shrimp in a 0.05 hectare nursery for the first 20-30 days, it means the farmer can squeeze more cycles out of his grow-out pond.
  • Disease Protection. Keeping animals in the nursery for 20-30 days helps them acclimate to the local water conditions while they are in their most fragile state. Furthermore, as the volume of water is relatively small, it is much easier to take pro-active measures against disease such as probiotics in such systems.
  • Faster growth rates. Usually PL’s are placed directly in the grow out, where it is more difficult to manage them. In shrimp farm nurseries, on the other hand, they can be managed very closely and fed every 2 hours. Such a schedule puts the animals on a faster growth trajectory for once they move out into the grow-out.

Nurseries: Intensive meets Extensive

I really like the nursery concept as a bridge for farmers to take as the industry intensifies. For large ponds in Latin America, the transitions to intensive is not only very expensive, it is unclear whether it will make economic sense for a majority of the industry.

But in using a nursery, farmers can get a lot of the advantages of more intensive systems with small ponds, high-aeration, etc., while preserving the advantages of extensive grow out ponds: lower labor costs, lower FCR’s, lower capital expenses.


I predict that in 10 years nurseries will become the rule, rather than the exception on shrimp farms. They just make too much sense not to.

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