NMSU researchers next to a tank where shrimp are farmed. (Photo: Jay A. Rodman / NMSU)
Can algae and cotton be used to raise shrimp in the desert?
Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 01:40 (GMT + 9)
Researchers at New Mexico State University (NMSU) are exploring whether a mix of algae and cottonseed meal can let farmers raise shrimp in the desert in an economically viable way.
"If you want to have fresh shrimp in New Mexico, why not grow it here if you can?" said Wiebke Boeing, an associate professor in NMSU's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology.
Boeing specializes in aquatic ecology and is the head of the study sponsored by Cotton Inc and the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio-Products.
She believes the economic development impact of a shrimp industry in New Mexico could be significant. Boeing visited shrimp farms in Michigan earlier this year where shrimp farmers have trouble satisfying demand; she thinks the same trend could appear in the country’s southwestern region.
One of the biggest expenses for shrimp farmers around the country include the price of commercial feed. Previous research has shown glandless cottonseed meal can replace a portion of fishmeal, she said, if fish oil is added to the feed.
Boeing proposes that a shrimp diet that replaces the remaining fish products with marine algae should be cheaper and more sustainable.
In the next 12 months, she will create shrimp feed with varying combinations of glandless cottonseed meal and algae.
The cottonseed feed was developed by researchers at Texas A&M University, and the NMSU study expands on A&M data. The Alcala cotton variety lacks the glands that produce gossypol, a substance that acts as a natural pesticide but also makes the seed, including its oil and meal, inedible by humans and most animals.
Boeing will then measure the survival and food conversion ratio of shrimp raised in aquariums using five different feed mixtures.
She will use Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) and the algae used will be grown at the Solix photobioreactor at NMSU's Leyendecker Plant Science Centre.
"In the end, it all comes down to sustainability," she said. "With a growing human population, we have to think more and more about ways to eliminate waste.”
“If an algae industry for making biodiesel takes off, New Mexico could become a hot spot. Using algae in shrimp farming would complement the biodiesel industry," Boeing added.
By Natalia Real