Plans for the U.K.’s largest shrimp farm were released earlier this month by start-up company Land Ocean Farm.
Land Ocean Farm aims to grow whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) in a biosecure, land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), eventually producing 1,000 metric tons (MT) of shrimp per year. The company is actively fundraising to finance the first stage and hopes to start construction in early 2022 at a site in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, U.K., with the hope of building an initial unit to grow 100 MT of shrimp and to add additional modules to reach full production in future phases of growth.
“We will prove the concept first, then add more units and our own hatchery, once everything is working well,” Land Ocean Farm Co-Owner Rasel Mahmud said.
Mahmud and business partner Litu Mohiuddin, both British-Bangladeshi high-end chefs, began talking seriously about constructing a land-based shrimp farm during the U.K.’s first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, when the pair had time on their hands. Mohiuddin grew up in a shrimp-farming area in Bangladesh and knew a bit about the process, and they had both enjoyed shrimp produced by FloGro and Great British Prawn, two failed U.K. businesses, Mahmud said. [Editor's note: Flogro Systems is currently non-operational, but has received funding to begin the process of transitioning to a new site.]
“We looked at these businesses to see what we could learn and how we could do things differently. We also set up a pilot project in Bangladesh using a biofloc system, and were delighted with the results, so we scaled that up and decided that we could farm the shrimp commercially in the U.K.,” Mahmud said.
Mahmud said he and Mohiuddin have been consistently disappointed with the quality of the imported shrimp they’ve encountered in the U.K., leading them to make an effort to grow their own. Mislabeling of glazed, soaked, and peeled products is common in the U.K. and is causing distrust amongst consumers, he said, and traceability and transparency in the shrimp supply chain are poor, making it difficult to know if harmful chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones have been used in the production process.
“We aim to produce consistent supplies of fresh, quality shrimp that address traceability, as well as environmental issues in current supply chains,” Mahmud told SeafoodSource. “The transport involved in bringing the product to market from thousands of miles away can have a significant impact on its carbon footprint. We have always subscribed to the idea of ‘eat local’ and the 78,000 metric tons of prawns and shrimps imported into the U.K. each year did not fit into this ethos.”
Land Ocean Farm now has a full-time team of experts and commercial partners working to advance the project, including Mahmud, who has stepped away from day-to-day involvement in the restaurant business he runs with Mohiuddin to concentrate on making Land Ocean Farm a success. One of the company’s first hires was Malcolm Dickson, who will bring a background in commercial aquaculture to his role as technical director. Dickson has been tasked with ensuring every aspect of the project, from the quality of the water, through energy use, to processing and logistics, has been thought through in minute detail. Dickson told SeafoodSource he has recently focused his attention on sourcing quality broodstock and disease-free postlarvae, as well as on sourcing high-quality sustainable aquafeed.
“My main role is to keep things on track and sustainable,” Dickson said. “The project is still at the concept stage and there is nothing on the ground yet, but good progress has been made in identifying an initial production site, with an ample source of green energy from an anaerobic digester to provide heat and power. Organic residue from the system will be returned to the anaerobic digester to create more green energy and contribute to the circular economy.”
Mahmud said he is pleased with the progress on the project thus far.
“Our team combines expertise in aquaculture, fisheries, biosecurity, and prawn production,” he said. “We are also working with Farm491, an agritech incubator and innovation space at the Royal Agricultural University. The leaders have experience in engineering, project management, retail, and hospitality, and we understand how to build, grow, and market.”
Eventually Land Ocean Farm plans to partner with farmers looking to diversify their income to build satellite production units and enhance the company’s plans to create a circular economy business model.
“Farmers could use excess heat from anaerobic digestion plants powered by farm waste, use crop byproducts to make fish feeds, and generate fish waste compost to add nutrients to their soil. Our success in aquaculture depends on others being successful with us, so we want to collaborate and create that success together,” he said. “Our goal is to champion sustainable aquaculture in the U.K., reduce dependency on foreign imports, and pressure on natural sources.”
Photo courtesy of Land Ocean Farms