Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An update on growing shrimp in Detroit

A little over three years ago during the first full month of this blog, I featured a Detroit Free Press article about a proposal to raise freshwater shrimp in Detroit, Indoor shrimp farming could grow into big industry for Michigan which includes a photo gallery.
To ramp up the automotive industry in Michigan, Henry Ford built the Rouge Plant -- a manufacturing infrastructure that could produce everything needed, from glass to steel, to make cars.

Today, Russ Allen is looking for a way to build a shrimp Rouge Plant -- a pollution-free, recirculating facility that could breed, grow, process and ship a million pounds of shrimp a year.

It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Allen, who spent 23 years establishing outdoor shrimp farming in Central and South America, has been raising shrimp indoors in Okemos since 1994 at his Seafood Systems research facility.
"This could be the start of an entirely new industry for Michigan, a clean industry, with new jobs," he said -- if he can find the $10 million he needs to build a commercial plant.
That was published on April 4, 2011.  Here's what I had to say about the idea at the time.
People talk a lot about Detroit as a center for urban agriculture, but this is the first story I've seen about urban aquaculture here. Honestly, I have to say I find this one to be a complete surprise to me. As for his idea, it will most likely work (he already raises 25,000 pounds of shrimp a year in Okemos), although I wonder how sustainable it really is. Shrimp are tropical and require a lot of heat.
As far as I know, Allen didn't get his $10 million.  However, his idea still lives, as the University of Michigan reports in U-M student growing seafood in vacant Detroit house from August 6, 2014.
ANN ARBOR—There is something fishy going on in a vacant house in Detroit's North End, and University of Michigan graduate student Elizabeth "Lizzie" Grobbel takes full responsibility.

That's because Grobbel, an environmental engineering master's student and a Dow Sustainability Fellow at U-M, is pursuing a pilot project called "Urban revitalization through sustainable small-scale aquaculture."

With seed funding from U-M's Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability Program, Grobbel is using a vacant house in Detroit to cultivate approximately 400 shrimp from larvae, distribute the mature shrimp within the city, and demonstrate aquaculture as a viable way to address the scarcity of locally grown seafood, while simultaneously finding productive uses for vacant property in the city.

"Detroit has an estimated 79,000 vacant homes, many of which the city wants to demolish," said Grobbel, who started working with shrimp in a research project with professor Lut Raskin of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "I started to question what a good alternative might be for some of the houses, and—given the lack of locally produced protein in the city—figured shrimp aquaculture was worth a try."
There is a lot more at the link.  Read it.  Also, Grobbel also has a blog, Detroit Shrimp on Wordpress, about the project.  It turns out that she's not growing the same shrimp Allen was.  He was raising Tiger Shrimp.  She's working with Pacific White Shrimp.  She may not be doing the same thing Allen wanted to do, but she's demonstrating that more than one kind of shrimp can be raised here.  That's a good thing.  Now to see if other people can continue the work, make money off of it, and, most importantly, feed Detroit's residents affordably.


  1. Yo, Professor; First Detroit and then Seattle, Long Island and Washington, D.C.. Here in western Washington State, we hit 100F on Sunday. The hottest day of the year, so far. By tuesday, the temperatures were back in the 70s. I even got a bit of mowing done. Then, the rain moved in. I'm halfway between Portland and Seattle, by the way.

    Up in Seattle, they had lots of rain, wind enough to take trees down and localized flooding. Century Link internet was down for more than 12 hours. Couldn't find much into on why it went down. Don't want to tip off the terrorists, ya know :-). But, a computer geek neighbor said it sounded like the fiber optic "backbone" was severed. I did see one map that indicated the outage was from north of Seattle to south of Portland.

    Then today I read that Long Island has had record amounts of rain. That all the expressways are under water. Fragmentary reports of local flooding in Washington, D.C..

    Well, a lot of the predictions of the effects of Global Weather Weirding call for dry and drought, but when it rains, it will be a real rain "event." It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in the near future. Lew

    1. Lew,

      Thanks for the weather report. I've been so wrapped up with what's going on here in Detroit that I didn't realize how bad it was elsewhere and how the same weather system continued with the same kind of mischief as it headed east. As for drought, not here. Maybe out where you are but Michigan is getting wetter.