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ROMNEY — America’s favorite seafood — shrimp — will be farmed in Capon Bridge if business plans presented at last Wednesday’s Hampshire County Development Authority meeting are implemented.

Plans to raise Pacific white shrimp in the Capon Bridge Technology Park were presented by A. J. Shapiro, CEO of Aquabanq Fish Farms LLC, a land-based aquaculture business headquartered in Sheridan, Wyo. 

The company is interested in constructing a facility on 6 to 10 acres, with potential for eventually expanding to 25 acres. Aquabanq also plans eventually to develop similar facilities in other states.

Implementing the plan will require hiring a dozen full-time employees by early next year, the lowest paid of whom would be farmworkers earning $34,000 annually.

After a year, the workforce should expand to 30 full-time employees — 50 if they add a processing plant.

Shapiro noted that one advantage of farming shrimp is that they grow fast, with extra jumbo shrimp requiring 4 months to reach market size. The company could produce as much as 275,000 pounds of shrimp a year in each of their 2 planned production units.

Other advantages of raising shrimp locally rather than importing it from Asia include reducing transportation costs, increasing food quality, bettering sustainability and enhancing food safety. Imported shrimp can take 6 months to reach the consumer, Shapiro said — and the longer it takes, the greater the danger of that food quality and safety becoming compromised along the way.

The company will use an advanced filtration system to ensure a constant supply of purified and oxygenated water flowing through their production tanks, with no discharge of pollutants into the environment. Shapiro said there would be no antibiotics or hormones and no pollutants — just a “fully traceable, natural U. S. product.”

Shapiro said they had originally investigated constructing a facility for salmon farming, but could not find anyone in West Virginia who could build such a facility for them.

He added that shrimp grow at very low density compared to fish — more like an aquarium, which makes it easier in some respects than fish farming. They have 8 to 9 hours to react if something goes wrong in the production unit, as compared to 23 minutes when farming densely packed fish.

Shapiro listed several endorsements the company will seek for its facility, including Best Aquaculture Practices certification from the Global Seafood Alliance. Their proximity to markets reduces the farm’s carbon footprint due to easier transportation, and they will use solar power for heating.

The Hampshire County location appeals to Aquabanq because a “farm-to-market” shrimp facility here will be well placed to deliver fresh shrimp to New York City and other East Coast markets. Reduced transportation costs should allow sales at $6-7 a pound of shrimp of a size that normally costs around $12 a pound. 

In return, said Shapiro, their land-based aquaculture system will benefit the local community and offer good-paying jobs at their production facility, as well as needing a lot of service providers from the local community.

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