Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shrimp Could Be Big Crop on Chicken Farms

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shrimp Could Be Big Crop on Chicken Farms

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Soon, the shrimp served in Heinz Solinski's posh Augusta restaurant could come from a South Georgia chicken farm.

The idea isn't so farfetched, considering most of the shrimp consumed in this country is raised in freshwater canals in Latin America. Boat harvesting has remained flat as overall shrimp consumption has steadily risen with the tide of general economic prosperity. People eat better when they earn more, according to conventional wisdom.

Solinski, owner and chef of La Maison, is the type of buyer targeted by supporters of a pilot project to test cultivation of shrimp in freshwater in Georgia. Solinski said he'd pay extra to get the shrimp fresh, the primary selling point for any Georgia producers.

Typically, shrimp and other seafood are quick frozen before shipment -- often while still on the boat -- to reduce spoilage because fresh shelf life is just three days. Since U.S. labor costs are higher than those of major shrimp-producing countries, project proponents figure Georgia producers won't be able to compete on price but will have an advantage if they stress freshness and sell the crustaceans in the shell with heads intact

"Very possibly, shrimp could be another cash crop for our farmers and another industry for our state," said Doug Cagle, chairman of Cagle's Inc., an Atlanta-based poultry company.

Cagle is leading the test to produce roughly 40,000 pounds of shrimp in two crops over the next year in a project requiring about $640,000 in state money and $100,000 in services his company plans to contribute. That includes constructing two 16,000-square-foot tanks and adding 1.3 million baby shrimp.

Cagle, who has also tried his hand at raising catfish, has 6,000 employees and 500 chicken farmers under contract that he is eager to employ in the shrimp business. Using his resources, he figures he can deliver fresh shrimp nearly anywhere in the country rapidly and efficiently. …

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