Made in the Midwest: Shrimp Farming Comes To Minnesota

Created: 05/23/2014 6:30 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The Midwest is known for its agricultural production, and Minnesota is no exception.
But now a new kind of farming is taking hold, one that's usually reserved for more tropical climates.
In a nondescript shed 15 miles East of Rochester sits Minnesota's first and only saltwater shrimp farm.
"Most people think I'm crazy," said Chad Axley, owner of Northern Tide Farm.
Axley started the farm last year after he wanted to find a better, more sustainable way to produce food.
"I like seafood, and I started looking into how it was raised across seas and in mangroves and stuff like that,” Axley said. “[I] decided that there's got to be a better way and I want to be able to trust what I'm eating."
Axley said most shrimp you find in the grocery store comes from overseas farms where lax regulations can lead to harmful chemicals finding their way into the food supply.
"We don't add any antibiotics, growth hormones, anything,” Axley said. “We try to simulate a natural environment and grow them the best we can simulating the natural ocean.”
The farm is healthy not only for consumers, but for the environment as well.
"I'm a zero waste facility. The only water I add is water that is evaporated,” Axley said. “I don't drop anything down the drain, nothing goes outside, so it's a zero exchange system."
The murky brown water in the tanks looks dirty, but that “dirt” is actually biofloc, a substance that breaks down unwanted particles and acts as a kind of eco-friendly water filtration system.
Axley said all the care that goes into growing the shrimp comes out in the taste.
"I always thought shrimp had the flavor of garlic butter and cocktail sauce. These shrimp actually have a nice sweet flavor to them,” Axley said. “You've got to try it to believe it."
The shrimp produced at Northern Tide Farm are known as Pacific white shrimp and take about five months to fully mature.
Axley said the farm can produce between 400 and 600 pounds of shrimp a month.

Photo: ABC 6 News