Here’s some shrimp you don’t have to question!
If you received a copy of our Children’s Art Calendar this year, then you may want to take a moment to thank the people that made it possible. We’d like to introduce you to Scott and Leslie Tysen, the owners of JT Shrimp farm in Wheatfield, Indiana. Now, you may be asking yourself, how could there be a shrimp farm in Indiana – don’t shrimp need to be in the ocean? Not anymore!
Thanks to a unique recirculating aquaculture technique, called the zero exchange aerobic heterotrophic system, the Tysens and their two children raise fresh saltwater shrimp in a barn on their land. This technique allows the shrimp to be raised without the use of antibiotics or chemicals, and provides a healthy source of fresh seafood to the middle of the country.
Scott and Leslie were not originally shrimp farmers. Scott has been farming the land for his whole life, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Leslie, too, has a rich history of farmers in her family, and in addition to the shrimp the Tysens raise cattle and grow grain on their land. In 2013, Scott started exploring the possibilities of expanding their farm operations. He was looking for a niche market to raise animals, something that would make their farm stand out, and was up for a challenge. That challenge was met by shrimp farming.
There wasn’t much information about recirculating shrimp farms available, and Scott spent seven months doing research. Trying to get financing for the new operation was a challenge well, but the Tysens persevered until they got approval. Now, they have nine tanks that can hold up to 7000 shrimp each. Scott thought that his main customers would be restaurants – surely the local eateries would want fresh shrimp! Thus far, however, the Tysens haven’t had a single restaurant customer. Instead, they have had great success with individuals who come looking for the best seafood in town. Some of Scott’s favorite moments are when he gets to meet new people who come to the farm or the market where they sell their shrimp.
On a typical day, Scott and Leslie get up at 5am. Leslie does the water testing and Scott checks on the pools to make sure things are all right and working properly. Based on the water tests, Scott then tells Leslie how much baking soda or calcium carbonate needs to be added in order to keep the water chemistry in balance. Too much or too little can be bad news for the shrimp. At 6:30 Leslie is back at the house to care for their daughter, and Scott goes to take care of the cows. In addition to rearing the shrimp for sale, however, the Tysens also offer educational tours so their neighbors can learn where their seafood comes from.
Both Leslie and Scott were 4H instructors, and they love having kids on the farm. The Tysens want to get it into their minds that they can do this, they too could raise shrimp, and try to get them interested in this new face of farming. But it’s not just about the kids; educating the adults is just as important. As a part of their operation, the Tysens want to people to be aware of how the shrimp they purchase is grown. They want to demonstrate they aren’t kidding when they claim their shrimp is healthy, fresh, and sustainable. More than that, they want their customers to be aware that this shrimp the kind you want to eat.
That may just be Leslie’s favorite part of the whole operation – eating shrimp that actually taste like shrimp should. What she’s eaten in restaurants or bought frozen at the store, is by comparison, downright nasty. Its unhealthy, its expensive, and it really shouldn’t even count as ‘shrimp.’
The potential for recirculating shrimp farms is significant, and it is definitely popular. The Tysens were visited by a man from New Mexico who came to take their technical tour and visit one other farm. He was interested in raising shrimp, just as Scott had been. Leslie and Scott spent a few hours chatting with him, but his real question was answered almost instantly: Would Scott do it all over again? Absolutely.
So, where are the Tysens going next? Well, there are a few options on the horizon to consider. Right now, the Tysens source the post-larval stock (PLS) from RDM Aquaculture, who we’ll hear more from in a few weeks. Scott is considering raising his own PLS to keep the operation more internal. Or, they might start raising another type of seafood, this time freshwater, indoors. Crawfish, anyone?
If you’re ever near Wheatfield, Indiana, drop by and say hello for the Mangrove Action Project! Leave some love on JT Shrimp’s Facebook page, or send them a friendly email. The Tysens are working hard to ensure that consumers have access to healthy, sustainable shrimp that does not contribute to mangrove deforestation. They’ve earned some serious kudos! Once again, from all of us at the Mangrove Action Project, thank you JT Shrimp!