06 Feb 2019
Theft In Shrimp Aquaculture
Written by Zach Stein

How to Avoid Night Harvesting

We’ve traveled all of the world visiting shrimp farms and one of the biggest frustrations we hear is the amount of theft that occurs in shrimp aquaculture.

Some farmer’s we’ve spoken with estimate that roughly 20% of their product leaves the farm unofficially in what are called “night harvests.”

With such a major impact on the bottom line, in this post we want to cover how and where theft occurs on the farm, discuss some strategies for dealing with it today, and some technologies coming down the line to help tomorrow.

How and Where Theft Occurs on a Shrimp Farm

Shrimp farms are generally not that secure. They are large, usually in areas surrounded by thick vegetation, and many do not even have electricity coverage across the farm.

The size of some farms, especially those in Latin America, can make them unwieldily to protect during the grow-out period. It is relatively easy for thieves to come in the night, put some food in the corner of a pond use a net to pull out the ready-to-harvest animals. This is the most common form of thievery.

The second most common is only a concern of the largest farmers, those who transport their crops directly to the packing plant. These are generally vertically integrated and shrimp pirates will lie in wait in the mangroves to board a shrimp barge and take the freshly harvested animals.

Strategies to Mitigate Theft in Shrimp Aquaculture

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to be focusing on the former issue – night harvesting – as dealing with pirates as a bit more situational.

If you are concerned about night harvesting, the first place to look is your staff. Unhappy and/or financially stressed members of your team may be more inclined to let a friend of theirs know which ponds are ready for harvest.

One of the best ways we’ve seen to mitigate this problem is to actually be more generous with your staff and find ways to tie more of their compensation to the outcome of the crop. If you staff members all know that their bonuses will be lowered by night harvesting, they are much more likely to self-regulate and internally punish/pressure anyone stealing on your staff to stop.

The other best ways today are all pretty capital intensive and they include:

  • Physical barriers (walls, fences, etc.)
  • Security cameras and motion detector lights
  • Night guards
  • Guard dogs

Security on the Shrimp Farm of the Future

For those farmers looking into the future for what will come to help with night harvesting, there are a number of technologies that could be worth waiting for.

  • Drones. Drone technology is improving rapidly. Today drones can take pre-set routes and return back to a home base to charge again and again. This is especially exciting for large farms that could purchase only a handful of drones to get maximal coverage.
  • Lasers. Yes! Lasers. These are not new, but prices are coming down for laser-security systems that can be activated if something breaks their beam. This is another inexpensive way to see if anything has entered the farm.
  • Electrification. Countries are investing in electrifying their shrimp farms and with stable electricity, a range of security options become far more affordable, not to mention the improved ability to get wireless signals across the farm.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are a number of “low-hanging fruit” that you can implement on your farm to address theft. We would suggest the best method though is to take any of the money you would invest in your security, and invest in your people. Bigger bonuses tied to better harvests, better incentives to work for you will lead to them feeling protective of your farm, thus reducing your risk of theft.

As prices generally come down for other security measures, you can then incorporate those to keep out any unwanted strangers.