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Farmer near El Dorado Springs readies to harvest his first crop of freshwater shrimp

James Edwards has had 17,000 shrimp growing in his pond for three months.

September 13, 2011|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

EL DORADO SPRINGS, Mo. -- A variety of crops and products grow on farms in Missouri.  One farmer who usually works with swine and soybeans is trying something new: shrimp.  You may expect them to come from the ocean, but shrimp are growing in James Edwards' farm pond near El Dorado Springs. 

In a Missouri farm pond, you might expect to see frogs and fish, maybe even a cow, but Edwards' farm pond is full of 17,000 shrimp. 

"I've been asked if I was crazy a couple times," said Edwards.

Having seen how shrimp farms work in the South, James Edwards learned it was feasible in Missouri and built his 1 1/4-acre pond.   He got his shrimp from Texas when they were 30 days old and 3/4 of an inch long.  That was three months ago.  Now they're almost ready for harvest.

"Most of our shrimp around here are imported from Thailand, and they're this exact same.  They're freshwater prawn just like these that are grown over there," Edwards said.

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Every other day, Edwards feeds the shrimp 72 pounds of sinking catfish food.  By the time they're harvested, they'll eat more than a ton.  He says they're clearer in color than many shrimp of the same kind. 

"A lot of times, when they eat a lot of dirtier stuff, this right here will turn real dark colored," said Edwards.

A paddlewheel aerator makes sure the shrimp have enough oxygen and Edwards keeps a close eye on the water quality and his new, completely organic crop.

"I was snorkeling with them, but the water got kind of murky, and they're fast, so they're hard to see," he said.

To catch them, Edwards will drain the pond into a catch basin. 

"This is going to fill up with water, and it'll let the water go out the bottom, which I've got to put my screens in there yet, and then, seven hours later, this thing will be full of shrimp, and we've got to take them out and put them on ice."

He hopes he'll have a line of folks waiting for their servings of some farm fresh Missouri shrimp. 

"We scampied some the other night and it turned out really good."

Edwards will take a load of his fresh shrimp straight from the pond to the Rusty Jug restaurant in El Dorado Springs for a shrimp fest on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.   He'll also have additional fresh shrimp to sell, and already has 100 pounds spoken for; he hopes to harvest around 400 pounds this year. 

Edwards is planning to build a nursery this winter so he can grow his own shrimp larvae, and he hopes to supply other farms.  He believes there may be as many as a dozen other shrimp farms in the state.  He also hopes to expand with another pond next year.

Learn more about James' Edwards Mo Shrimp Aquaculture Farm on Facebook and more about growing freshwater prawn in Missouri at the University of Missouri Extension website.  Edwards says he welcomes competition, and is willing to talk with others interested in growing local shrimp.

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