Fresh shrimp closer than most people think

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fresh Seafood has never been difficult to find around Demopolis. But what many people may not know is fresh shrimp are swimming freely in the waters of Forkland.

At the Greene Prairie Aquafarm on Highway 43, run by business partners David Teichert Coddington and H.R. Scmittau fresh shrimp are raised and sold each day.

For the last four years Coddington and his partner have been tending their unique farm.

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“We built this farm in 2001,” Coddington said. “We built it with the idea of producing shrimp and we chose this area because of the salt water. A couple of other farmers in the area had tried shrimp and found out they could grow.”

The farm is the only one of its kind in Alabama. Coddington said they used a very specific type of animal to ensure a high survival rate.

“The shrimp we produce is a Pacific White shrimp,” Coddington said. “It is the number one farm shrimp in the world. It is native to the Pacific Ocean and Central South America and they have a wide tolerance to salinity and different culture conditions. They can do very well in different culture conditions.”

The high market value, flavor and texture also make this particular type of shrimp a favorite. Coddington said the demand for shrimp has steadily grown in the last few years. Because of this more and more people are attempting to farm them. As of now, 60 percent of the shrimp on the market are farm raised.

“Shrimp production all over the world for the last five years has increased,” Coddington said. “The supply is quite high now and the price has fallen as a result.”

Fish farming is a popular field in the Black Belt, but Coddington said shrimp farming very different. He said the structure of the ponds make the biggest difference.

“The majority of differences in the construction of our ponds as opposed to a catfish pond has to do with the slope in the bottoms,” Coddington said. “You have to increase the slope because we drain harvest our ponds. We also have larger discharge pipes since we do drain harvest because you have to get the water out quicker. Those are the primary differences.”

Coddington said during drain harvesting they are also able to recycle 90 percent of the water in order to practice good environmental management. During the harvest the water and shrimp are pumped through a dewatering tower where they are separated, the shrimp are weighed and put directly on ice.

The farms success has generated a lot of interest from others that want to get into shrimp farming. However, Coddington said there are some ground rules that must be met before getting started.

“We get a lot of calls from folks that want to raise shrimp,” Coddington said. “You have got to have salty water. The water here is about 10 percent sea water strength as far as saltiness which is plenty of salt to grow this particular species of shrimp.”

Coddington said they also had to add potassium to balance out the ions better

There are several advantages to the Greene County shrimp as opposed to foreign shrimp, which are becoming more and more popular in the market. Coddington said the chemical regulations let people know that his shrimp are all natural.

“It is grown in the U.S. so the federal regulations for antibiotics and chemical use applies,” Coddington said. We don’t use them. This is an all-natural farm and we don’t use any pesticides or herbicides of any sort. When we have them processed we process them without any chemicals.”

Because the shrimp are grown in a different environment there is a distinctive flavor. However, people have responded favorably to the sweeter taste of the farm grown shrimp. Some have even traveled from the Gulf Coast just to get the farm-raised version.

“A lot of people wonder if there will be a difference in flavor between these shrimp and the ocean shrimp,” Coddington said. “There is a little different taste. These tend to be sweeter and don’t tend to taste as marine. People who try them tend to like them very much. We have folks that come up from Mobile and from the coast to buy them.”

As for the process of raising the shrimp, Coddington said they get the babies in post larvae stage when they are slightly smaller than mosquito larvae. The shrimp are then acclimated to bring them down from seawater strength to lower their salinity to that of the ponds. Once they are ready they transfer them to ponds where they are harvested from the middle of September until late October or early November.

In the future Coddington said he would like to expand the farm. Currently, they have 50 acres of ponds, which could double in the coming years if the market was favorable.

Greene Prairie Aquafarm also recently launched their own website at www.GreenePrairie

For more information, or to place orders, the farm can be reached at 205-372-2844 or 888-280-4043.