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New shrimp farm owner addresses concerns

January 13, 2015
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Robin Pearl, owner of Pine Island's newest shrimp farm, met with about 100 islanders last Tuesday night to address concerns about the construction and operation of Sun Shrimp farm.

Cathy Malone, vice president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA), introduced Pearl, president of American Mariculture (Sun Shrimp on Pine Island) to one of the largest crowds to attend a GPICA meeting.

"Recently we've started to notice that we seem to have a lot of aquaculture and fish farms on the island and wondered if this is the wave of the future replacing palm groves and other agriculture," Malone said. "In calling around I found Mr. Robin Pearl, president of American Maricultural, who is selling shrimp under the name of Sun Shrimp. He is here to explain to us his operation and what is the future of this type of 'farming' for Pine Island."

Article Photos

Robin Pearl, president of American Mariculture, addresses the crowd at the Greater Pine Island Civic Association meeting last week.


"Thank you for inviting me here tonight," Pearl said. "My farm is located about one mile south of here. We started planning about 4 or 5 months before we broke ground last August. Over the last year and a half we've built the largest indoor shrimp farm in the United States and probably in the world.

"We are a small private company funded by individuals with a team of scientists and a team of businessmen who believe in creating better food," Pearl said. "The United States imports 90 percent of its seafood from third world countries. A lot of companies have been trying to figure out how to do this - it's a very hard thing to do and that's why there are so few of us. Shrimp farming started in the United States about 25 to 30 years ago. They pretty much copied what they were doing in Asia and are now finding out this is not an effective way to harvest shrimp."

Shrimp is the number one consumed seafood in the U.S. Every person in the U.S. eats about 4.2 pounds of shrimp per year. Shrimp fishermen provide approximately 10 to 12 percent and the rest comes from shrimp farming.

"Shrimp farming in Asia uses a lot of chemicals, hormones, preservatives and dips," Pearl said. "When shrimp are added to these dips, miraculously they gain 20 to 25 percent in weight. It's all water and that's why when you cook them they shrivel up. A lot of the shrimp that is imported to the U.S. doesn't even qualify to be shipped into Europe. The U.S. has much lower standards and less inspections than European countries do. That's why when you see ads 'all you can eat for $6.99,' you get far less quality at a lower standard for your money.

"What we have here on Pine Island is a bio-secure facility," Pearl said. "I know everyone was wondering what all the fencing and gates are all about but we need the farm to be bio-secure. The only way we can have disease on the farm is if we bring it to the farm. Our shrimp are Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) shrimp which are disease free for the last 15 to 20 generations. That's our starting stock and we breed our own stock from there. Our water comes from a well and we don't flush that water; we use the same water for the entire cycle of 150 days.

"So far we've been very successful," Pearl said. "Right now Sun Shrimp are being eaten in Caymen, Puerto Rico, New York City, Miami, Philadelphia and almost everywhere. We ship every day UPS overnight. Some of our large supermarket chains pick them up but it's truly unique to have fresh shrimp available every day.

"We have received sustainability awards from Monterey Aquarium, Vancouver, Fish-Wise and several others and are governed by the Florida Division of Aquaculture. Our shrimp are also available at Costco and Kroeger."

Pearl then took questions from the audience.

Q: "How much shrimp do you produce a day?"

Pearl: "We produce about 2,000 pounds per day."

Q: "How many tanks do you have on the property?"

Pearl: "We have 144 tanks on 8.5 acres. That's all we are planning at this time."

Q: "Could you take us through the time it takes to grow shrimp?"

Pearl: "The life cycle of a shrimp is 150 days. We grow Pacific white shrimp and sell them at 16/20 whole count. We have a three stage system where the shrimp stay in the nursery tank for 35 days, transfer them to a juvenile tank for 65 days and then 65 days in the final tank. When we harvest they go right into ice that kills them immediately and they are shipped by 5 o'clock."

Q: "Is your water fresh or saltwater?"

Pearl: "Our shrimp are marine shrimp saltwater. We have a well on the property."

Q: "What happens with the manure?"

Pearl: "Everything is recycled. We use no nitrates, no ammonia, the bacteria eat everything. It is a perfectly balanced system using nature."

Q: "Do you plan on having tours?"

Pearl: "Because we area bio-secure facility we don't have plans for yours."

Q: "Are these buildings air conditioned?"

Pearl: "No. Shrimp like heat so we can have air temperatures over 100 degrees."

"What we're doing is unique in the industry and so far restaurants and other outlets are willing to pay a premium for shrimp raised without chemicals, antibiotics or preservatives," Pearl said. "Sales are going great and we've had a wonderful response. I want to thank you for having me here tonight."

For additional information, contact Robin Pearl, American Mariculture, Inc., 9703 Stringfellow Road, St. James City, FL 33956; (phone: 1-954-494-3774)



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