Is this the start of Turkey’s shrimp farming industry?

EM6 20 AQ MemshrimpPioneering cultivation of a new species

This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 6 / 2020.

A company in Turkey is growing whiteleg shrimp from imported broodstock. The experience and knowledge gained will be used to catalyse the development of a shrimp industry in the country.

Turkish catches of wild shrimp are dominated by deep-water rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris). This species accounted for three quarters of the catch of shrimp, prawn and lobster in 2019 or 3,850 tonnes. In addition, the country imported 2,150 tonnes of shrimp in various forms. Shrimp are popular in Turkey which is why it is surprising, that despite an 8,000 km long coastline and a hugely successful aquaculture sector, shrimp farming has never established itself.

Attempts to farm the native species foundered due to slow growth rates, cannibalism, and the inability to utilise the feed optimally, according to Metin Kumlu, a former professor of aquaculture at Çukurova University in Adana. Today Prof. Kumlu is advising a company, Mem’s Karides, on how to farm whiteleg shrimp, a non-native species.

Whiteleg shrimp more promising than native species

Established in 2017 Mem’s Karides is part of a group whose core activities are in construction, renewable energy and the medical industry. The company owners, suspecting there may be an opportunity in shrimp farming, decided to invest in a shrimp hatchery, nursery, and grow-out ponds at the site of a former seabass and seabream farm in Mugla in western Turkey. The hatchery according to Emre Bingül, one of the company partners, is the first and only one in Turkey. So, what drove a company with interests in quite different fields to start up a shrimp farm? The investment needed was relatively modest and the potential returns were very promising, but over and above that it was the expertise of Prof. Kumlu, that was a deciding factor. With his colleagues at university Prof. Kumlu had tried to farm shrimp commercially in Adana but lacked the financial backing until the owners of Mem’s Karides showed an interest in the project.

The professor had acquired some experience farming local species of shrimp from the Mediterranean Sea, but they showed little potential for being commercialised. In contrast, trials with whiteleg shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) were much more promising as the shrimp utilised the feed better and grew rapidly. For commercial farming, says Prof. Kumlu, white shrimp is far superior to our local species. However, the plan is also to initiate a pilot production with a strain of giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) to see if that too is suitable to be farmed under the available conditions. The farm currently comprises a hatchery, a nursery, and a grow-out unit created by adapting a former seabass and seabream farm. It is located some 10 km from the coast and water for the production is therefore pumped from a well. The salinity of the water is low (5-7 ppt), but the white shrimp is a hardy species and can tolerate low salinities at the nursery and grow-out stage. For the hatchery, however, sea water is transported from the coast by truck. The production cycle starts with the import of specific pathogen free (SPF) broodstock. The company tried broodstock imported from Thailand before switching to a supplier in Saudi Arabia as the results from the former were not satisfactory—the handling and transport had apparently stressed the animals. So far, the broodstock has only been imported twice, about fifty pairs each time, as larvae are only required for the company’s own production.

Recirculation systems used for biosecurity reasons

A female that spawns well can give between 200 and 400 thousand eggs and if the hatchery protocols are good, she can spawn more than once a month and has a working life of 6-8 months, before the quality of the eggs deteriorates. Larvae from the broodstock cannot be reared to become broodstock themselves, explains Prof. Kumlu, who has done some experimental work in this regard, when he was at university. Spawning and hatching rates tend to be worse than for broodstock imported for the purpose and the post-larvae are generally poor quality. As a result, he expects the company to continue importing broodstock for the next couple of years at least.

The farm uses recirculation technology to produce the shrimp. This is used not in the hatchery but in the nursery and the four grow out ponds. The latter are between 1,000 and 1,500 sq. m in size. The use of recirculation systems is made compulsory by the authorities who do not permit the growth of non-native species of shrimp in other than closed containment systems. The ponds are equipped with sedimentation tanks and biological filters and pumps are used to circulate the water. The system was tested a few years ago at Prof. Kumlu’s department at Çukurova University and the results from there suggested that the system could be scaled up for commercial purposes. After the broodstock spawn and the eggs hatch, it takes a couple of days before the larvae start feeding. They are nourished for 10 to 14 days initially on algae, artemia, and later on artificial feed until the post-larvae stage. The post-larvae are moved to the nursery where they stay for 4-6 weeks until they reach between 0.75 g and 1.5 g. They are then moved to the grow-out ponds. This year (2020), the first year of production, the shrimp were moved from the nursery to the grow-out ponds at the end of July, where they will stay for two and a half to three months. The hope is that they will reach a market size of around 20 g by then. However, as this will be the first production batch, sizes are expected to vary from 15 to 25 g. Although the absence of other shrimp farms in Turkey reduces the risk of disease, the company is fully aware of the need for hygiene and biosecurity measures. The imported broodstock is certified SPF and workers at the farm take the necessary precautions to reduce any risk of infection. Additional measures will be introduced over time as production grows.

Locally produced, fresh product has an edge over frozen imports

Whiteleg shrimp is popular among Turkish consumers and retailers have been visiting the farm to learn more about the production and the potential for securing regular deliveries. Currently, the market is supplied with frozen whiteleg imported from Asia and demand is good, says Emre Bingül, a partner in the company. Where Mem’s Karides has an advantage is that it can supply very fresh product that is cultivated in Turkey. In fact, once production has taken off the company expects to be able make deliveries within 24 hours of harvest. The ultimate goal, however, is to export to the EU, most parts of which can be reached within 4 days by truck. Thanks to the seabass and seabream farming industry, Turkish exporters have a lot of experience sending seafood to Europe which will also benefit the company. Initially, however, Mem’s Karides will target the domestic market, in particular the big metropolitan cities like Istanbul and Izmir, but also tourist centres such as Bodrum and Antalya. In the first instance, retailers interested in the product will be expected to take delivery at the farm and package the shrimp themselves. However, in a year or two the company expects to establish a unit, where the shrimp will be processed and packaged. Expansion plans not only include a processing facility, but also an investment in land for more ponds in Adana to increase the production of post-larvae. These will then be sold to other companies that have shown an interest in shrimp farming to support this nascent industry in Turkey.


For more information contact´:

Mem’s Karides/Shrimp Co.
Piri Reis Mah. İsmet İnönü Bul. Hanlıoğlu, Apt. No:182 K:1/2 Yenişehir
Mersin, Turkey

Tel: +90 324 327 04 44
Fax: +90 324 327 05 55

Farm site
Baharlı Mah.
1023 ada-parsel
Milas, Muğla

Tel: +90 536 281 33 33 / +90 532 356 56 47

Emre Bingül, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Murat Demir, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prof. Metin Kumlu, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Activity: Production of farmed whiteleg shrimp (Penaeus vannamei)
Capacity: 120 tonnes total from two harvests/year
Hatchery capacity: 50m post-larvae
Feed production: 60 tonnes
Markets: Turkey, EU (in future)
Partners: 4
Employees: 15