Farm Food Facts

Dr. James Wetzel, Jeff Howell, Aquaculture

October 01, 2019 Episode 44
Farm Food Facts
Dr. James Wetzel, Jeff Howell, Aquaculture
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Dr. James Wetzel, Jeff Howell, Aquaculture
Oct 01, 2019 Episode 44
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

Today's Thought Leader is Dr. Jim Wetzel, an aquaculture researcher / instructor for Lincoln University as well as a member of the research technical committee for the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center.

The news YOU need to know:
Researchers study Super-Repellent surfaces for Safer Fruits & Vegetables.
California’s Central Valley is helping shape the future of American Agriculture.
1 in 4 consumers discuss responsible food sourcing online.

Our farmer is Jeff Howell, who together with his family, started Triple J Farms, which raises shrimp in an indoor controlled environment in the Midwest.



Speaker 1:
0:01
Farm food facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to farm food facts for Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 I'm your host, the lumper this week we're going to discuss aquaculture. Our guests are dr Jim Wetsel and aquaculture researcher and instructor from Lincoln university as well as a member of the research technical committee for the North central regional aquaculture center. And also with us is Jeff Howell, who together with his parents and brothers started triple J farms, which raises shrimp in an indoor controlled environment in of all places in the Midwest. So dr Wetzel, what's interesting to me is you've made the statement and the mission to create a viable
Speaker 2:
0:50
aquaculture industry in Missouri of all places. Why in Missouri tell us,
Speaker 3:
0:56
well, first of all, Missouri does have a lot of resources you need for opera culture. We have lots of water, at least in parts of the state. We have some land is suitable for the purpose as well. Additionally, we have several population centers that currently import most of their seafood products, usually from outside the country. And they pay a lot for those same products.
Speaker 2:
1:18
Yeah, I want to talk about the imports. Uh, for example, and also let's bring Jeff in this, uh, because Jeff, I guess one of the reasons that you started indoor shrimp farming, uh, was because you noticed that you know, 90, 95% of all the shrimp here in the U S is imported and mostly from Asia. Is that correct?
Speaker 4:
1:39
That is one of the reasons we got started in this business. Uh, our story, uh, we are an old farm family, uh, from defiance, Missouri and we're pretty tight knit and we always have Sunday dinners together. And during one of those dinners, uh, our father was reading an article about how Cargill was trying to make a shrimp feed out of soybeans. That got us interested in why we needed a shrimp feed in the first place. And that's when we started looking into where a lot of our shrimp comes from that we do have available here in the Midwest and do our research. We did find that over 90% of the shrimp consumed here in the United States is imported mainly from Asian shrimp farms. Of that, about 2% is inspected by the FDA when it gets here and the amount that they inspect, usually about 60% of that is rejected basically for two main reasons. Use the Tetra cycling's with your souped up antibiotics. I usually keep them alive in their environments over there. And the second one is usually filth.
Speaker 2:
2:33
So dr Wetsel, when I hear that only 2% is inspected and I, and I know you know, we're talking about aquaculture, but only 2% of all that shrimp from Asia is inspected. That 60% is rejected. I am horrified, uh, to hear that. Is that one of the reasons that you've taken this stand with aquaculture and trying to really it here in the U S
Speaker 3:
3:01
that feeds into it, but still my primary interest is in helping the farmers that I serve, providing them alternatives, uh, to uh, some of the row cropping and animal terrestrial animal production systems that are becoming less sustainable for smaller operators, which smaller operators are my primary audience that I work with.
Speaker 2:
3:22
And also besides being less sustainable, isn't it a less profitable to do that versus what Jeff is doing? And, and Jeff, maybe you should answer that. Are you making money doing this?
Speaker 4:
3:33
We're doing okay. Uh, yeah, we are to a point now where, uh, I have been mainly been open about half the year. Uh, we are having trouble keeping up with our retail demand. Uh, so we have a very, uh, nice following on Facebook and all their social media everywhere. Uh, and we will post on there on Wednesdays if we're going to be open for that week and we sell out so fast, I'm usually closed two weeks out of a month.
Speaker 2:
3:58
So that's good news. But how do you, how do you go from being closed 50% of the time to being open 100% of the time,
Speaker 4:
4:08
more tanks? Uh, we currently have, uh, 14 production tanks in two nursery tanks. Uh, and right now in house, uh, we just started another, uh, another nursery batch and we have roughly about 80,000 shrimp and house. And we have gone through one expansion already, uh, in our first three years of being open. And we are about to, uh, we, we really need to expand again to be able to stay open consistently.
Speaker 2:
4:33
So what's the problem in expansion? Is it funding? Is it space? Is it that the tanks aren't available? What's, what's the roadblock here and how can, how can Jim Wetsel help
Speaker 4:
4:45
considering this as a new business, we want to do it smartly, uh, and go baby steps. We don't want to put the cart before the horse here and then put in all these extra tanks and not be able to sell on the shrimp that we would have available. So we just want to go at things slowly, make sure that we are successful and profitable and just take baby steps.
Speaker 2:
5:02
So you're just doing shrimp now. Do you think that you'll be doing other seafood in, in the future?
Speaker 4:
5:09
There are other options out there such as, uh, the first one that comes to mind is crawfish or oysters. Uh, we are getting very good at raising shrimp. Uh, our survivability rate when we first got started, we were in the mid fifties as far as our survivability rate. Uh, now we are pushing upper eighties, lower nineties and survivability. So we're really trying to master the shrimp side of this first before we tried to get into any other ventures.
Speaker 2:
5:36
Sure. That makes sense. Uh, so Jim, a lot of your research has to do with nutrition, uh, with a particular focus on protein and energy. Talk to us a little bit about that. Obviously when we hear about, uh, the imports coming in from Asia, we've all read the articles about what they're being fed, how they're being fed. Uh, is it so important, um, that we really focus on nutrition as it relates to seafood
Speaker 3:
6:05
when it comes to off the culture are generally the most important expenditures you have when you're trying to raise a group of fish or shrimp up there or handling most expensive fetus? The most expensive part and protein is the most important part of the expense. When it comes to feeds. We're, we're constantly trying to find ways to make it so the feed is more affordable. So it increases the options for us to be profitable.
Speaker 2:
6:29
When we talk about fish and to shrimp in particular, what's the type of feed that's the best feed, if you would, um, that farmers who want to get into aquaculture should recognize and understand?
Speaker 3:
6:43
Well, when we're talking about a shrimp, I'm looking for a pellet that when it hits the water stays together, it's very palatable. The animals like to eat it on top of that, they convert well with it. It's not just something you throw on the tank that falls apart and then forces your filtration system to have to handle it. It converts well.
Speaker 2:
7:02
So Jeff, your experience about feeding shrimp,
Speaker 4:
7:05
we use a program developed by a company called Ziglar brothers. They are based out of Pennsylvania. Uh, just like Jim said, that does our, our main grow out feed as appellate. Uh, however our shrimp are so small when they get here, they do start on a liquid feed. Uh, and I have basically from the time that they get here till the main grow out feed, I have about seven different levels of feed that will go through. And he is correct. The main thing is conversion of the main ingredients in our feed is Marine protein or basically fishmeal. And we average about 1.1 pound or 1.1 pounds of feed going into the tank for every one pound of shrimp we pull out.
Speaker 2:
7:42
So, so Jim, you know, in reading about you and reading about a lot of your work, you know, you really have focused on the human interaction, uh, with fish and chickens in particular about feed. And I love one of your quotes, a success with such efforts of consistently required getting the humans in the interactions to relax. What do you mean by that?
Speaker 3:
8:10
Well, when it comes to feeding your critter, whether it doesn't matter what it is, you have to be able to, there's a a, a two way communication going on there. At least in one form or another. You've got to be a read the fish, uh, and let them tell you when they're hungry or when they're getting close to full. And the fish have got to get excited by your activities around the tanks when you approach so they can get geared up to eat. What happens when they're eating is a lot of the animals that get so excited that they get tired before they really get into it before they really get fed up, they get filled. It's like a dance. You're trying to get them to eat as quickly, as efficiently as you can without overdoing it.
Speaker 2:
8:50
So Jeff, how's your communication with your shrimp?
Speaker 4:
8:54
Uh, our who's just a little bit different. So we go through a mourning cycle of testing. Uh, we will test uh, 11 different things on each tank every day and when we do that, that'll basically tell us how much we need to feed. Uh, as far as our pre feed program on each one of the tanks. Now I have 14 different tanks within the farm right now as far as our production tanks and each one of them as almost like a little biological engine. And I have to make sure that what I'm putting into the tanks is exactly what the shrimp need. Cause basically dead shrimp do not make me any money. Uh, what we do is
Speaker 2:
9:29
thank you. No,
Speaker 4:
9:31
but actually they are the ones that we do find this as far as jumpers, we do have some that will jump out of the tanks from time to time. Uh, we do freeze those and we sell those for catfish bait. So that's my, uh, eliminate out of my limits. Uh, but what we'll do is go through our 11 different tests. Uh, will, my, my Excel spreadsheet that I have as far as my tracking is a little ridiculous. We keep it year by year. You know, I think I'm online about two 20,000, uh, so far for this year. Uh, but we will track everything in. One thing that we did within the last six months as we added automatic feeders to our tanks, uh, there are 24 hours feeds. It's basically a belt feeder and it will slowly deliver the feed into the tank over 24 hour periods. That way that the shrimp have a constant source of feeds that they can go after that has significantly improved our water quality. Instead of hand feeding them a couple of times a day. We are consistently just adding a little bit of feed each time. That's really increased our oxygen that we have within our tanks.
Speaker 2:
10:28
So. So Jeff, when, when you describe this, uh, can you give us some example of those 11 different things that you're testing for?
Speaker 4:
10:38
Every morning we will test temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity, P, H nitrates, nitrates, ammonia, carbon dioxide, bio flock and mortality. We do that even before we put anything into the tanks. We need to make sure that the environment is completely stable for them to make sure that everybody's happy, feeding, growing, and basically just everybody's happy, happy and healthy.
Speaker 2:
11:03
So, dr Wetsel, you know, when, when Jeff was describing, um, the shrimp that are jumpers are, are those excited shrimp, are they happy shrimp or they just went out?
Speaker 3:
11:15
It depends. And this, the setting that I operate with, with my fish, uh, the fish and we have a large number of the numbers of them. They're like popcorn. You scare one and he'll bump into some others and some of them will jump out of the water. And sometimes being scared is a random thing, just someone slammed up and touching you jelly from behind cause you have to start with you. Or in some situations it can be somebody walking heavily through the building or flicking the lights on a on and off at a time. The animals are not expecting it.
Speaker 2:
11:44
When we look at aquaculture and I read about aquaculture and I see the various fish farms popping up throughout the country, uh, clearly this is the next step for, you know, fish, agriculture or fish aquaculture. Um, what do you see, and I'm going to ask both of you this question. Uh, Jim, why don't you start, what do you see as the future for fish farming?
Speaker 3:
12:08
For me, what I want to see are farmers that are promoting their own products, that they're stressing, their local, locally produced and they are fresh, not frozen. And when they're also establishing with their consumers the fact that the products they're changing hands are being sold, are also helping to support the community, the farmers that are around them not being shipped overseas. Those are my primary goals I'm trying to see and also the farmers need to benefit from it as well. I don't want to see them going through all this effort and dumping all the resources into this and not making a better living than they are now.
Speaker 2:
12:43
And certainly you feel that from a consumer standpoint, besides fresh, besides local, what are some of the other benefits? Are we, are we growing healthier fish and shrimp by doing this process or is it about the same?
Speaker 3:
12:59
Uh, it depends. Now I'm not quite as knowledgeable as I'd like to be in terms of what's being imported, but my understanding is is that there are some antibiotic issues associated with what is imported. That is my primary concern of antibiotics and pesticides that are often used overseas that we cannot use here.
Speaker 4:
13:16
And I just want to hit on something that Jim just said as far as the antibiotics and some of the things he hit the nail on the head. And one thing we do here is we will never use any antibiotics, hormones or chemicals. Uh, when we raise our shrimp, we only use for additives. We will use our feed. We will use simple syrup, one part sugar, one part water. We will use a probiotic that is dried bacillus or the active culture and yogurt. And on the last one, on a needed basis, we will use baking soda to help control the pH. You know, Colin, any other water, other than that, nothing else gets into our tanks. Uh, he's absolutely right. The industry has a possibility of growing rather rapidly into a large scale. Uh, one thing as far as on the shrimp side that we're seeing, when we first got started, that was I think, believe 2017 when Harvey hit Texas, uh, there was also another hurricane that hit the key West.
Speaker 4:
14:08
That was an issue for us because that knocked out two of the main hatcheries, uh, within the United States. Uh, we couldn't get shrimp for about six months. Uh, which is a problem for us. Uh, one thing we could see here, especially with our expansion that we have, uh, the possibility of having a hatchery for shrimp here in the Midwest, uh, that would help out a lot of local, uh, small time, um, mom and pop shops that are, are looking to get started into the industry. But having a local supplier shrimp would be, uh, the biggest next step for us.
Speaker 2:
14:39
So I want to thank both of you, but Jeff, I have to ask you one question that I can't find the answer to. So you know, you, your, your firm is called triple J farms. Yup. Your parents are
Speaker 1:
14:52
David and Sandy. Your brother is James. So as I counted, there's Jeff and James. Why isn't the double J farms?
Speaker 4:
15:02
We have an older brother named Jason who still has a [inaudible].
Speaker 1:
15:05
Yeah. Gotcha, gotcha. Okay. But you're, but you're going to get him to, to join with you.
Speaker 4:
15:12
Uh, we will see what happens. He, he's pretty successful in what he does. Uh, but he does have a son who is rather interested in what we do here. Uh, and like I said, it is a family business, so we'll see how big it gets.
Speaker 1:
15:23
And is this son, what's his name? Oh, his son's name is Owen. Okay. So it's gotta be double J and Oh, right, good. Thank you both so much for joining us today on farm food facts, a great education and thank you both for doing what you're doing. Thank you. And now for the [inaudible] for the news, you need to know where searchers study super repellent surfaces for safer fruits and vegetables, Texas a and M groups AgriLife research and the engineering experiment station teas were recently awarded a grant from the USDA national Institute of food and agriculture to study and develop super repellent and antifouling surfaces for foods. The grant will be utilized in their collaboration to help ensure the safety of fresh food products, which will be of benefit to both consumers and the produce industry. Recent food safety outbreaks have caused illnesses and death among consumers and have had a negative impact on the fresh produce industry.
Speaker 1:
16:25
Dr Luis Zavala use an ag life research food scientist States the surfaces where designing avoid cross-contamination and reduce the risk of biofilm formation. After observing the natural morphology and chemistry of rice leaves which have hydrophobic super rappelling characteristics, the team was inspired to create unique surfaces that mimic leaves ability to reduce the attachment of microorganisms. Our team is a pioneer in this area. Zeballos said, we certainly believe that it will transform the way the fresh produce industry operates and we hope the industry will adopt many of the products our project will develop over the next few years. Meanwhile, on the West coast, California central Valley is helping shape the future of American agriculture. According to Pacific standard magazine and experiment is taking place that could help determine what food we will eat for decades to come. There's a climate controlled laboratory at the Duarte nursery outside Modesto, California. The nursery is growing up plethora plant species and testing them with stressors like those experienced in fields across the central Valley.
Speaker 1:
17:36
For example, declining levels of water, escalating levels of salt. The nursery is attempting to determine what crops and trees they can plant. Now that will thrive and bear fruit over the next quarter century or as the climate and environment continues to change around us. Climate change is revealing the vulnerabilities of the industrial agriculture system that relies on predictability and it's shining a light on alternative growing practices that are potentially more resilient to these environmental shifts and on a smaller scale in our home. One in four consumers discussed responsible food sourcing online. According to recent research from the center for food integrity, one quarter of us consumers are actively engaged in online discussions regarding responsible food sourcing. The group analyzed millions of online engagements and found that many people engaging on this topic online are middle-class between the ages of 25 and 54 this segment of socially conscious consumers choose cage free eggs and they eat in restaurants that feature organic foods as they're striving to make a more positive impact on society with the food that they eat. Responsible sourcing is vital across generations as more consumers want to have control over their consumption and help mitigate the negative impacts of animal production. For more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit food dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USF RA. Until next time.
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