Scientists raise shrimp on Kauai farm

Roberto Quintana
Roberto Quintana
Robert Kanna
Robert Kanna

By Howard Dashefsky - bio | email

KEKAHA, Kauai (KHNL) - In this Earth and Sea Project report, we take you to an eco-friendly farm on the island of Kauai.

But at this facility, the farmers are scientists.

And while they take nothing from the land, they're giving back, by the truckloads.

For the people who run the farm, the sight of these shrimp is huge. But before we dwell on the finished product, let's go back to the beginning of their six-month journey.

"These are my babies, these are my babies," said Roberto Quintana, Hatchery manager.

This is where life begins for the shrimp. In an elaborate facility outside Kekaha, biologists breed the larvae.

"They go through three different larval stages and once they reach a size of one centimeter, we take them out of here, we harvest them and take them to a nursery tank," said Quintana.

For 22 days, Roberto Quintana raises the animals on a natural diet.

No growth hormones, additives, antibiotics of chemicals.

A premium is placed on purity.

"All the applications we use is natural," said Quintana.  "The algae we produce it over here, the brine shrimp we produce here and water and air, that's basically it."

After 22 days, the tiny creatures are transferred into an outdoor pond, for about six weeks.

Then it's down the road to the final grow out facility. Several ponds, powered by the ocean.

Here, another 18 weeks, to reach their final market size.

This is where Robert Kanna takes over. He oversees the final stage of production. All the while maintaining the integrity of the product.

"Without that we'd be just like, run of the mill," said Kanna.  "Getting a fresh product you can't beat that. Right here, pulling it out of the pond you process and have it in the store on the same day."

Although Kanna throws a mean net, the bulk of the shrimp are harvested at night by pumps.

Then immediately put on ice, and taken to the processing facility in Hanapepe.

It is here where the shrimp are prepared and packaged for market. And while this first harvest has proven to be a big success, the key now is to keep a continuous cycle going.

And that starts back at the Hatchery.

"So I'm the one who dictates the whole production at the end of the chain. If there's a problem here it's going to be reflected 6 - 7 months down the road," said Quintana.

And that's the best part. Enjoying the sweet taste of success.

"All the Kauai people, they just want to know when is all the shrimp gonna come out," said Kanna. "They know we're operating so they're all excited."

Specialists with Fresh Island Fish, the company that manages the farm, acknowledge, aqua culture will never fully replace fishing.

But by farming shrimp, and soon, other species, they say they will relieve the pressure from the natural resources, which will ultimately help re-plenish the ocean's wild stock.