Like many types of partnerships these days, the people behind a shrimp farm that is the first of its kind in New England found each other online.
James Tran, founder and CEO of Sky 8 Shrimp Farm, investigated starting his own indoor shrimp farm by visiting operations in Indiana and Nevada and trying out small-scale experiments in his spare time. It was a career shift from the semiconductor business and his electrical engineering background, but made some sense given his family history of harvesting wild and farmed shrimp in Vietnam.
“Even though I came here when I was young, basically my whole family are fishermen,” he says.
He decided to pursue the project in earnest. After getting nowhere with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, he was told by a state regulator he needed to find a seafood expert. He found 40-year seafood industry veteran Peter Howard in an online search and gave him a call.
“He called me and said, ‘Do you want to start a shrimp farm? I said, ‘When do you want to start?’ He said, ‘Next month,’” remembers Howard, who is a part owner and overseeing sales and marketing for Sky 8.
A year later in April, their venture, Sky 8 Shrimp Farm in Stoughton, Mass., was preparing to introduce its first batch of 16-count Pacific white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) to the market.
Howard says the market focus for Sky 8 will be local — and upscale — with wholesale prices between USD 14 and USD 20 per pound.
“I see the market in fine dining,” says Howard, who hopes it will appeal to top Boston chefs cooking whole shrimp instead of the more common headless frozen product that is imported. “The shrimp are going to be sold right as they come out of the water.”
The company name comes from Skyworks Solutions in nearby Woburn, for which Tran designed and built semi-conductors. Tran included the number 8 in the company name because he believed it was the eighth farm of its type in the United States.
Sky 8’s shrimp operation is the first in Massachusetts, and the first of its type in New England, where the waters are too cold for outdoor ponds common in shrimp farming around the world. Other indoor farms can be found in Maryland, Illinois and Nevada. Sky 8 and other indoor farms are just a tiny slice of the U.S. farmed shrimp industry. Although shrimp is the most consumed seafood species in the United States, the majority, 1.17 billion pounds, is imported.