27 Mar 2019
Is Hyper-Intensive the Future of Shrimp Farming?
Written by Zach Stein

We have had the luxury of traveling the world and have visited some of the most intensely stocked (250-400 PL’s/sq m) to some of the least (6 PL’s/sq me).

In general, what we find people get the most excited about the opportunities on the more intensive side, given the rising costs of land and the ability to raise shrimp closer to the customer given the higher output per sq m.

In this post we want to explore what we are seeing on the highest ends of that spectrum, the hyper-intensive farms at 250+ PL’s/sq m.

What is Hyper-Intensive Shrimp Farming?

Hyper-intensive shrimp farms are systems that are built to raise shrimp at 10x higher densities than what one finds in a traditional, semi-intensive shrimp pond.

They are always in some kind of indoor structure, whether that be a greenhouse or a warehouse and are either high turnover flow through or some kind of RAS system to deal with the high amounts of waste that gets built up. The systems we have seen are either built around biofloc or aquamimicry/synbiotics to remove handle the excess waste that filtration or water exchange cannot handle.

The systems are plastic-lined or in tanks and have very high amounts of aeration to maintain high levels of dissolved oxygen.

Why Hyper-Intensive Shrimp Farming?

The most productive systems we have heard of can produce roughly 40x more shrimp in a given area than extensive ponds. This has a major impact on the expected return on capital invested.

Even though far more equipment needs to be purchased to start, less land needs to be purchased and you need fewer people to manage it for the same amount of shrimp.

One of our favorite studies documented the increased profitability that comes as you intensify a shrimp farm, so the excitement around hyper-intensive farms largely stems from this ability to continue to generate more margin of profit per kilo of animal produced.

Also, with a smaller, more intensive system, the capability to automate, collect large amounts of data, and make incremental improvements can have an outsized impact.

Is Hyper-Intensive Shrimp Farming the Future?

This is the big question. The answer is looking unclear. If you follow the major investment dollars in farms, they are largely going towards more intensified. We have talked with farms in Peru, Brazil, China, Korea, and Vietnam that are all moving to hyper-intensive after running smaller scale trials.

We have also talked to farms that are moving in the opposite direction and lowering their stocking densities, finding it delivers them higher FCR’s, growth and survival rates. While such a strategy can make sense for existing farms, where the heavy, up-front capital costs are behind them, we would argue they make less sense for new farms which have all of those startup costs in front of them.
So in general, while we likely will see some farms move in the opposite direction, the clear trend seems to be in favor of intensification. We are seeing more multi-acre, hyper-intensive farms come online and if they are as successful as their investors expect them to be, we can expect to see far more.