Shrimp farming is a multibillion-dollar industry, with demand for this delicacy on the rise. However, this industry also has a dark side - it is often associated with environmental degradation, water pollution, and labor exploitation. Recent developments suggest that technology can help clean up this issue.
Shrimp farming is an intensive practice that requires a lot of water, feed, and energy. It also generates a significant amount of waste, which can pollute water bodies and harm the environment. To tackle these issues, many shrimp farmers are turning to technology.
According to Debabrata Khuntia, a fish farmer who made a living in the Bay of Bengal and the rivers and canals of Purba Medinipur in West Bengal, many farmers have switched to shrimp farming because the pay is higher. However, this requires constructing shrimp ponds, feeding the shrimp, and administering antibiotics.
At the end of the shrimp's growth cycle, when they are ready for market, untreated water is discharged into the river, which, according to Debabrata, has caused pollution.
Despite the existing problems, India seems unlikely to turn its back on the industry.
One technology is recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), which allow for the reuse of water and the efficient removal of waste products. RAS systems also help control water quality, temperature, and oxygen levels, which can improve shrimp growth rates and reduce mortality. RAS technology can also reduce the reliance on antibiotics.
The vast majority of Indian fish and shrimp farming is currently conducted in ponds or sea cages, but there is an alternative method. Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) involve water circulation in tanks. The water is continuously filtered and monitored, resulting in minimal wastage. There is much less potential for environmental contamination if conditions can be tightly managed. Since there is no need for a natural water source, the tanks can be located anywhere, perhaps near large cities, which could serve as a market for fresh produce.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used in the shrimp farming industry to improve productivity and sustainability. AI can also monitor water quality and detect diseases, which can help prevent outbreaks and reduce the need for antibiotics. Blockchain can also be used to track shrimp products from farm to table, providing transparency and traceability.
Despite these promising developments, there are still challenges that need to be addressed in the shrimp farming industry. For example, many shrimp farms are located in sensitive coastal ecosystems, which can be impacted by shrimp farming activities. Shrimp farming has increased rural incomes and evolved into a lucrative export industry. India is the largest exporter of frozen shrimp in the world, with an annual value of nearly $5 billion (£4 billion).
To address these challenges, it is important to promote sustainable and responsible shrimp farming practices. This can be done through certification programs that set standards for environmental and social responsibility, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) or the Global Aquaculture Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification.
Technology has the potential to clean up the shrimp farming business and make it more sustainable and responsible. Innovations such as RAS, probiotics, AI, and blockchain can help reduce waste, improve productivity, and ensure traceability and transparency. However, it is important to address the challenges of environmental degradation and labor exploitation in the industry and promote sustainable and responsible shrimp farming practices.