Natural Shrimp Automation Increases Profits | A615

Natural Shrimp Automation Increases Profits | A615
Image Credit: NaturalShrimp
NaturalShrimp Automation
Increases Profits
Application Note
Feed Smart Technology Improves
Shrimp Production at NaturalShrimp
YSI Aquaculture Monitoring and Control Systems
Application Note A615
Efficiency is the key to success in shrimp production—creating
the conditions for shrimp to efficiently convert nutrients into
body weight, and running a business that achieves that
conversion efficiently. The NaturalShrimp Company, on the
outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, has turned efficiency into an
art form, supplying an eager market with weekly harvests of
fresh, chilled shrimp.
Since its inception in 2001, the company has mastered the
art of recreating the ocean environment in a recirculating,
biosecure inland environment, ideal for environmentally
friendly, high-density production of Pacific white shrimp
(Litopenaeus vannamei).
NaturalShrimp’s proprietary system maintains water quality
in its tanks, says Dr. Doug Ernst of NaturalShrimp. But it’s
not easy.
Scientific Advisor, Doug Ernst, shows off the quality shrimp produced
“These systems are not rocket science,” Ernst says. “They’re
harder than rocket science. Rocket science is predictable, not
chaotic. Any time you’re working with a biological system,
there’s an element of chaos and unpredictability. Even in
controlled systems, there’s some element of chaos.”
With various water treatment technologies used to manage
shrimp metabolites such as ammonia and long-term
accumulation of nitrate, the other critical challenge is
maintaining a healthy growth rate in the tanks. Temperature
and oxygen are the fundamental parameters, says Ernst,
and have been managed automatically since NaturalShrimp
installed its first YSI 5200 multiparameter continuous
monitoring systems at start-up.
But the true driver of the production system is NaturalShrimp’s
automated feeding system, which is managed by YSI’s Feed
SmartTM feed timer system, a fully automated program
designed for YSI’s aquaculture monitoring products
(5200A/5200, 5500D and 5400).
“Basically, what it all comes down to is that feeding is like
the gas pedal of the engine,” says Ernst. “The definitive
thing in all aspects of aquaculture is how much feed you’re
Shrimp are harvested and chilled immediately
putting into the system, at what rate. That drives your oxygen
demand. It drives your metabolic loading.”
NaturalShrimp starts with PL10 hatchery shrimp and grows
them out to harvest size. Based on population, weekly body
weight samples and feed conversion ratio for L. vannamei,
Ernst programs his YSI monitors—Ernst calls them “panels”—
to deliver precisely enough feed each day to meet growth
“Feeding rate is a function of species, mean body weight
and temperature,” he notes. “We set the panels once a week
and they grow that crop each day, going up each day a little
bit. The logic of the panel is very much in-sync with the logic
of our feeding.”
“The logic of the panel is very much in sync
with the logic of our feeding.”
One of the highlights of the YSI Feed Smart feed timer
system is the ability to steadily deliver feed over a 24-hour
period—a pattern that is critical to dealing with shrimp, Ernst
points out.
The YSI 5200A is the newest model for multiparameter monitoring and control
with the Feed Smart software built-in
“Shrimp are different from tilapia or salmon in that they
have a very short gut,” he explains. “They don’t really have
a stomach they can fill up—they’re not event feeders. They’re
continuous grazers.
“If you have an animal that will basically eat 24/7, the best
way to administer that gas pedal is to keep it steady and
even,” Ernst says. “That spreads out the loading in the
system. Therefore it spreads out the oxygen demand and
spreads out the excretion of ammonia and carbon dioxide.
There’s less load in the system, and it makes the system
more stable and robust.”
Because the YSI system only provides as much feed as will
be eaten in the specified feeding interval—programmed
into the control panel as the number of feeding events per
day—waste is reduced dramatically.
“When the pelletized feed hits the water, it will start to leach
nutrients, start softening, start being digested by microbes
in the water, and lose nutritional value over time,” Ernst
explains. “You want to put your feed in and have it eaten,
basically the quicker the better. The higher the feeding
frequency, the more feedings per day, the better the
nutritional delivery to the shrimp.”
For aquaculture systems in general—both biofloc and
filtration-based technologies—uneaten feed goes straight
to the bottom of the microbial food chain, the bottom of
the tank, or the bottom of the waste solids removal…and
therefore to the bottom line.
“The other big concept in automated feeding is the reduction
of labor,” Ernst points out. “In a full facility, if you’re manually
A615 | Application Note | NaturalShrimp Increases Profits
One of the NaturalShrimp tanks shown with the original YSI 5200 mounted
feeding all the time, then you’re talking about swing shift and
graveyard shift, and somebody coming in on the weekend.
Just to get that feed out, you’re talking about 24/7 staffing.
It would work out to an extra 4.2 full-time equivalent (FTE).
“With those costs, you might not feed continuously—you’d
divide that and your waste feed would go up.”
The YSI 5200A/5200 system replaces that labor with a
simple desktop interface that is easy to program for up to
100 feedings per day, measured in ounces and pounds
or grams and kilograms. The system increases feed daily
based on user-defined feed conversion ratio (FCR), either
in Continuous or Timed modes.
The YSI 5200A/5200 can also decrease feed levels based on
dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature or pH values, defined
by the user—in Ernst’s metaphor, applying the brakes to
metabolism until the system is stabilized.
NaturalShrimp has consistently used the Feed Smart system
to its best advantage, notes Darrin Honious of YSI in Yellow
Springs, Ohio. “Doug and his staff have a phenomenal
understanding of the nutritional needs of their shrimp,
and use the Feed Smart feature as part of a finely honed
system,” Honious says. “The results speak for themselves, in
the extraordinary quality of their shrimp and their consistent
improvements in efficiency across the operation.”
Ernst uses his YSI monitors to keep constant track of
temperature and DO, though the YSI 5200A/5200 is also
capable of monitoring conductivity (salinity), pH and oxygen
reduction potential (ORP). Ernst also manually samples for
“Really, temperature, oxygen and feeding are the core
management variables of the aquaculture environment,”
Ernst says. “We use the panels to manage our in-tank
heaters. The panel can turn on and off the heat so our water
temperature is always at the appropriate temperature. And
if oxygen goes below a certain point, it can turn on pure
oxygen. If oxygen falls farther than that, the YSI panel will
call the autodialer.”
Ernst says NaturalShrimp’s YSI controllers have grown with
the company’s business.
“As we’ve seen improved growth rates over the years, we
can input that into the panels,” he notes.
That flexibility has led to a tremendous trust in the automated
feeding system.
“It’s been an unchanged part of our technology for eight
years,” Ernst notes. “It’s reliable, it’s functional and it’s
programmable. It’s an agent out doing our bidding. We just
load the hoppers in the morning and off we go.”
“It’s reliable, it’s functional and it’s
YSI Inc. | 1725 Brannum Ln | Yellow Springs, OH 45387
Tel +1.937.767.7241 | 800.897.4151 | [email protected] | @YSIinc
© 2014 Xylem, Inc. All rights reserved.
YSI is a trademark of Xylem Inc. or one of its subsidiaries. A615 0714
Dr. Doug Ernst, Scientific Advisor, NaturalShrimp
If you’re interested in learning more about NaturalShrimp please visit: or contact [email protected]
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