Although the major producers of shrimp from Asia or Latin America provide the worldwide shrimp market with vast amounts of frozen shrimp, Mr Gints Dzelme, the founder of Mere Shrimp Farms, claims that they are not a threat to his production. By delivering sustainable and preservative-free production, he says that Mere Shrimp Farms is offering a completely different product to customers aware of the benefits of sustainable production.
From water treatment facilities to shrimp farm
Mr Dzelme says that the concept of the intensive indoor shrimp farm originated from his 15 years of professional experience in the water treatment business. The fact that business market was shrinking in Latvia also encouraged him to pursuit new ideas for own business. Having participated in various aquaculture projects during the last seven years, Mr Dzelme searched for opportunities to set up an aquaculture project himself. The founder of the shrimp farm explains that the start of the project was not smooth. Many aquaculture farms were already operating in Latvia and the seafood market was quite full, therefore a niche in the market had to be found. Consumer awareness of the advantages of organic, locally-produced shrimp was an important factor in his decision to implement the project.
Exotic species were investigated and evaluated including whiteleg shrimp (Penaeus vannamei). This variety was not, however, the primary focus. Mr Dzelme was initially interested in growing crayfish as it seemed to be possible to rapidly achieve economically viable production volumes. However, having learned from the experience of other companies growing crayfish, he decided to produce whiteleg shrimp instead. According to Mr Dzelme, crayfish has several disadvantages. They can only be cultivated at very low densities and if the density is exceeded they can start to slaughter each other. It is also hard to control this situation if they are kept in ponds. On the other hand, growing shrimp requires much less space. Having heard about companies growing the shrimp indoors, Mr Dzelme did a lot of research in this field and then, because of his professional experience and with help of other experts, a decision to set up the pilot project of indoor intensive shrimp farm, using biofloc technology and 100% water recirculation was made.
High tech cultivation is more efficient than conventional production
As well as being a more sustainable farming method, the farm is also easier to run compared to a conventional farm due to its automated monitoring and management systems. The farm and the technology it uses is based on know-how and innovation. One of the factors that also contributed to the decision to start the indoor shrimp farm was the huge demand for shrimp and the increase in shrimp prices. In addition, the reduced global supply of shrimp due to Early Mortality Syndrome provides Mere Shrimp Farms with a competitive advantage in the form of a higher demand for organic and sustainable shrimp.
Since May 2014, the company has successfully run a pilot project – an intensive, indoor shrimp farm in Riga. Although the project is still at an early stage, it is now expecting its first harvest of three hundred kilos (25-30 g each) of whiteleg shrimp. Production will be two tonnes of whiteleg shrimp yearly once it starts producing to capacity. The farm expects to supply the local Riga market with around 150 kg of fresh live shrimps per month, which will not satisfy the demand. At the moment, Mr Dzelme assumes that 10 to 15 tonnes of shrimp per year will be needed to satisfy the market in Riga.
Chemical-free production – a unique selling point
When we started the project, one of our risks was the market and the possibilities to sell our high quality live shrimp, says Mr Dzelme. Despite the uncertainty, demand for their organic production turned out to be sufficient due to customer awareness of the benefits of an organic and locally grown product. Frozen shrimp are well known on the Latvian market. However, the company does not compete with producers from Latin America or Asia, which supply large quantities of mainly frozen shrimp. Mere Shrimp Farm offers locally cultivated, live, organic shrimp. Located close to market, the farm proudly states that its gourmet sushi grade shrimp are produced without the use of antibiotics, preservatives or chemicals and are available all year round. “The taste of our shrimp is so different that it is possible to recognize our shrimp even with closed eyes. We are not using any chemicals in the shrimp growing process”, says Mr. Dzelme.
The main customers of Mere Shrimp Farms are private customers, restaurants, catering businesses and special seafood stores. The company also sells live shrimp from the farm. Live shrimp is delivered to restaurants and using their specially equipped tanks the shrimp can be kept fresh and live for up to two weeks without impairing its quality. Mr Dzelme claims that there was a lot of interest from consumers, after information about the farm was disseminated in public, “we received our first Post Larvae in the beginning of August 2014 and we are already looking for investors or partners to increase our production volumes”.
Estimated costs for the pilot project (producing two tons per year) are €120,000. For a farm producing 500 tons a year, costs are likely to be around €12,000,000. So far, the project is proving to be profitable with the first payback taking between one and three years. Since there is a demand for fresh high quality shrimp and lack of its supply, the plan is to expand the project to other European cities including Berlin, London, Vienna and Warsaw.
|Mere Shrimp Farms|
Lutrinu street 1
Founder: Gints Dzelme
Product: Organic whiteleg shrimp (Penaeus vannamei)
System: Recirculation aquaculture
Product form: Live shrimp (25-30 g)
Volumes: Two tonnes per year
Customers: Retail, HORECA, private individuals
After Riga, sights are set on Tallinn, Vilnius
The future vision of Mere Shrimp Farms is to expand and sell their production in the capitals of Estonia and Lithuania (Tallinn and Vilnius). Mr Dzelme expects that the farm will produce two metric tons of whiteleg shrimp per year after it becomes fully operational. The price of Mere Shrimps Farm is €49 per kg including taxes. Although it might seem relatively high, for example, in Italian local fish markets, the best locally caught shrimp costs around €60.