HIRAM, Ohio (AP) - Researchers have stocked a Portage County pond with 4,000 baby shrimp this month as part of a study to find out if shrimp farming can succeed in a northern Ohio's climate.
The quarter-acre pond in Russ Fair's front yard is believed to be the northernmost shrimping operation in the United States.
It will not take long to determine whether the idea works. The specially built pond will be drained for the shrimp harvest in mid-September.
"I know shrimping in Ohio sounds crazy," said Laura Tiu, an aquaculture specialist at Ohio State University. "But it can work."
A study last year showed that shrimp, or actually freshwater prawn, can thrive in southern Ohio's climate. This year's study is to determine whether that success can be matched in the central and northern parts of the state, Tiu said. Fair's pond is one of six being monitored.
Ohio has about 25 shrimp farms, up from 10 last year and three in 2001, the first year shrimp farming was allowed in the state, Tiu said. Special approval was needed from the Department of Natural Resources, since the crustacean is not native to Ohio.
The goal, Tiu said, is to create a profitable side business. A one-acre pond can generate up to $5,000 in profit annually, she said.
Shrimp start to die in water colder than 55 degrees.
After Tiu and Geoff Wallat, another Ohio State aquaculture specialist, dropped 4,000 shrimp off, Fair used 5-gallon buckets to haul the creatures to his pond. He squatted and slowly spilled the shrimp.
Fair built his pond and raised shrimp on his own last year, with mixed results. He estimated that 70 percent of his shrimp lived, but they did not grow very large. Fair harvested about 250 pounds of shrimp, which was not enough to fill the more than 50 orders he received. He chose not to sell any of the shrimp, because of their small size. He split his harvest among friends, family and his freezer, he said.
This year, under the Ohio State program, Fair will double his feedings to the shrimp to increase their size.