The J&J Drydock Shrimp farm hosted Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.
Owners shared how they run their farm, from how many shrimp they grow, to the food they feed, to the farm’s marketing stance.
During his visit on Wednesday, Oct. 9, Naig said he visits several farms annually as a part of the 99 counties tour, which has to be done by the end of the year. During the tour, he visits a farm from each county and asks how the farm is running.
“I want to listen, I want to hear what you guys say,” he said.
Because aquaculture has been an interesting topic for the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Naig said he wanted to come to the shrimp farm based in Forest City specifically because it’s been in operation since 2014.
“We think we have a great opportunity as a state,” Naig said. “I think that surprises people a little bit that Iowa might be a place for aquaculture to grow.”
All the things that make Iowa a great place to do other protein production, such as a pork farm or an egg farm, are the same things that can make Iowa a great place for aquaculture, Naig said.
“We’ve got availability of feed, of corn and soybean, quality water, available water, those are all the things an aquaculture operation needs, too, so I think there’s a tremendous opportunity, and people are increasingly interested in trying to diversify their operations, and so I think aquaculture could very well be with us,” he said.
J&J Drydock Shrimp owners, Jeff and Julie Tegland, took Naig on a tour around their insulated, indoor saltwater shrimp farm, which consists of one large tank, one medium tank and one small nursery tank in one garage building.
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Julie Tegland said one of the challenges they face is getting the post larvae to start a tank of shrimp because most shrimp hatcheries are so far away, though there is a hatchery starting up in Minnesota they’re excited about.
The Teglands get the larvae at about 10 to 12 days old, when they’re the size of an eyelash. It takes about 4 to 5 months to raise the shrimp so they’re big enough to harvest and sell.
The large tank can hold about 5,000 shrimp and the medium tank can hold about 2,000 shrimp, so J&J Drydock Shrimp is a small operation, which makes it difficult for them to buy the post larvae because most hatcheries have a minimum orders of as large as 30,000 post larvae shrimp.
“We’ve been lucky enough that we have had a supplier when we’ve got to get smaller numbers because we don’t want to overstock,” Julie Tegland said.
Because they run a saltwater shrimp farm and saltwater is very expensive to get, they are constantly trying to reuse the water as much as they can while still making sure the fish are in a healthy environment, Julie Tegland said.
Additionally, getting the feed for the shrimp is a challenge, as most of their feed comes from as far away as Pennsylvania, to which Naig said he’d like to see some of that feed production here in Iowa as well.
However, despite these production challenges they are still firmly in business with a list of customers waiting for a batch to be ready to buy, according to Julie Tegland.
“We’ve been asked by restaurants, but we can’t because we’re so small,” she said. “It is [great from a marketing standpoint]. We’ve been really lucky.”