LDS Church's Deseret Ranch Experimenting with Shrimp Farming
ST CLOUD, FLORIDA -- Desert Ranch, a 300,000 acre cattle ranch owned
by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has begun
experimenting with shrimp farming, as have many citrus growers in
South Florida. The ranch, located in St.Cloud, south of Orlando, is
considered the largest east of the Mississippi river in the U.S.
Many of those getting into shrimp farming are reacting to the prices
for citrus products. "We've had declining citrus prices for the last
10 years," said Donovan Schumann, 32, of Vero Beach, who has gone
into the shrimp business in a big way. Schumann took the leap from
his own management company of a former citrus grove to 120 acres on
the Indian River Aquaculture in 1998. Three years later, his hard
work, research and planning have produced up to 1,000 pounds of
shrimp a week. "The shrimp market is good." he adds. "Many citrus
growers are just about finished. The glory days are over." The
company's Sable Bay Fresh Shrimp brand is being delivered this week
for $8 a pound to seafood retailers, restaurants and to consumers who
order a minimum of 5 pounds.
The practice of shrimp farming started in the early 1990's when
researchers discovered that shrimp can be acclimated to fresh water.
"They thrive especially well in Florida's hard water with its high
levels of calcium ions," says Ferdinand Wirth, an agricultural
economist at the University of Florida's Indian River Research and
Education Center in Fort Pierce."
Schumann's Indian River Aquaculture is one of three Florida firms
marketing their first shrimp as the year comes to a close. OceanBoy
Farms, headquartered in Clewiston is the biggest with 12, 2 1/2 acre
rows of cropland. "The reason we are growing shrimp is there's a huge
demand for it," said Robin Pearl, OceanBoy's vice president and
business manager. "The U.S. imports more than $3 billion a year in
shrimp. It's our second-largest trade deficit in natural resources,
after oil." The third major player is Desert Ranch, but General
Manager Ferren Squires says the ranch is still experimenting with it.
Many others in Florida are now experimenting with shrimp farms.
"Almost 30 people in Florida have shrimp farm permits," said Kal
Knickerbocker, an administrator with the Florida Department of
Agriculture in Tallahassee. "It is risky, and it's a real tough
market to operate in. They have to compete with shrimp coming off the
boats and the foreign imports. You can make a lot of money, or you
can lose a lot," Knickerbocker added.
Shrimp farms are comin' to a citrus grove near you
Palm Beach FL Post 17Dec01 B3
By Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer