|By NANCY VORIS
MARTINSVILLE, Ind. — As combines are hitting the corn and soybean fields in Indiana, another new commodity crop has already been harvested.
Connor Shrimp Farm in Monrovia and Navilleton Shrimp & Buffalo Farm held their annual freshwater prawn harvests in September.
Tim and Julie Connor welcomed several hundred visitors who sat around the banks of the pond, relaxing the day away as the pond drained and finally yielded 500 pounds of 6-inch freshwater prawns. Customers brought coolers with ice to fill with shrimp and take home.
As the pond drained, children and teen-agers gathered the prawns stuck in the mud, then proceeded with a new tradition – mud football.
At $8 per pound, the Connors sold out and could have sold another 300 or 400 pounds.
“Once you try it, it makes a believer out of you,” said Tim Connor, who just finished his second year of raising prawns.
Connor joined Jerry Pellman of Navilleton, near New Albany, and Frank Schafer of Reelsville in neighboring Putnam County, as the state’s pioneer growers of freshwater prawns. Along with the prawns, interest is growing in trout and tilapia farming.
Last week the newly formed Shrimp and Trout Alliance met in Martinsville to discuss the harvest, lessons learned and opportunities ahead. Keith Henderson of Coatsville attended the meeting to ask questions and weigh the possibilities on his own farm.
Visitors to Pellman’s farm see a wide range of livestock, including buffalo, llamas, sheep, fainting goats, chickens, turkeys, peacocks and cattle. This is his third year in the shrimp business.
Water temperature and aeration are crucial in raising shrimp.
Pellman started with two ponds and added a third pond this year. He said he made a $600 mistake when juvenile shrimp were released in June in the new pond, which was at a different elevation.
“They have to acclimate to your water,” Pellman said. “The top pond water was different.”
Just before harvest the night air took a dip, and Pellman had to flood the pond with warmer water from his lake or he would have lost the crop. But water that is too warm could stunt growth.
“We can grow shrimp bigger than Mississippi because our water is cooler than theirs,” Connor said.
Startup costs for growing prawns in an established pond include approximately $900 for aeration, $600 for an oxygen meter, about $400 for feed per year and $600 for juvenile shrimp.
To keep the ponds producing income, trout can be added after the shrimp harvest and fee fishing could start in March or April.
Tilapia can be grown in cages over the shrimp in summer and harvested about the same time as the shrimp.
“There are a lot of revenue possibilities we haven’t touched,” said Jim Roudebush, of the Farmers Alliance Network, supporters of the SAT Alliance.
The SAT Alliance purchases juvenile shrimp from the University of Kentucky, and all receive their deliveries the same day in June. They are looking at other ways to support and help each other, and get more farmers involved.
Possibilities include starting their own juvenile hatchery, supplying start-up packages for new farmers and combining their harvests at one central festival.
For more information, contact SAT Alliance President Tim Connor at 765-349-1427 or e-mail Jrc6349@aol.com
This farm news was published in the Oct. 11, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.