Have you heard that Kedron Valley Farm is raising shrimp in Southern Minnesota? This should come as no surprise to area residents hearing that Aaron Terbeest, graduate of Kingsland High School in 2004 and Winona State University in 2009 with a degree in psychology, has ventured into a new kind of farming involving the hatching and growing aquatic animals.
Fillmore County has a rich history of cultivating areas of water to produce places suitable for marine life to flourish. The Peterson Hatchery beginnings reach back before the turn of the century. The Fish Hatchery in Lanesboro was established in 1925 and the Spring Valley Trout Farm has been involved in the business of providing a positive environment for fish since the 1940s.
Kedron Valley Farm actually began in 2015 as an idea when Aaron and his mother, Janet Webb got “carried away after her husband, Larry Webb, read an article about shrimp farming in Iowa,” says Aaron. “We researched many topics such as shrimp production methods, energy efficient building design, and economic feasibility. After careful consideration, we decided to dive in.”
The name Kedron Valley Farm was chosen for the business because, “Kedron Creek runs through the pasture north of the building site,” comments Aaron. “Fittingly, Kedron can be translated to dark or torrential, which reflects what the water looks like in our production tanks. The water is the color of tea because of the beneficial bacteria we nurture to help maintain water quality.” It is vitally important to keep oxygen in the water, which like in an aquarium means that the water needs to be constantly in motion.
The process of moving this idea to a viable business was quite involved. “We researched shrimp farming for about a year; on our own, attending seminars in Iowa, touring other indoor shrimp farms, and hiring a consultant as well,” says Aaron.
After a final decision to move forward with their plans, Aaron, Janet, and Larry began making logistic headway. Aaron mentions, “We contacted Morton Buildings to construct the building, since they had experience with building another shrimp building in Lime Springs, Iowa, at Windy Rock Shrimp. Local carpenter, Tom Ramaker built our production tanks. I helped him but Tom made sense of the plans we received from our consultant and made some useful alterations to the design as well.”
Even though work began in September 2016, several construction delays did not allow for its completion until late January 2017. “With construction completed,” says Aaron, “we contacted the DNR for a site inspection so we could get our aquaculture license. It took over three months to complete this process, since the DNR was beginning the reapplication process for existing fish farms in Minnesota and they get first priority.”
The Terbeest-Webb farming family got their first stock in early May, which was about five months later than what they were expecting, so they “were quite eager to get these animals growing!”
Researching their business involved many hours of research into the shrimp farming commerce. “Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the U.S. At about four pounds per person every year,” states Aaron. “Over 90% of this shrimp is imported and many of these shrimp farms rely on banned antibiotics, and little or no environmental regulations, even slave labor to operate. These are some of the costs you don’t see when you’re enjoying cheap shrimp from the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
Aaron continues, “Wild-caught shrimp is better from a food safety standpoint but often times these shrimp are caught by trawling the ocean floor with a football field sized net destroying the natural habitat.” Since people everywhere enjoy eating shrimp, this young man is interested in providing local communities with a fresh, wholesome, sustainable seafood.
However, Aaron’s decision to become a shrimp farmer in an area where large bodies of water are rare goes beyond building a profitable business for himself. Several reasons exist, “One, is to let small farmers/producers know that aquaculture (even marine aquaculture) is a viable crop for them,” states Aaron. “Aquaculture is growing aquatic animals under controlled conditions, usually for the purpose of being food. Our specific type of culture is known as Biofloc Technology. In a nutshell, we culture beneficial bacteria which provides a small level of nutrition, but primarily helps maintain a low level of nitrogen in the water. Nitrogen can kill shrimp.”
This conservation technique also allows Kedron Shrimp Farm to reuse water for multiple crop cycles. The system operates with about 30,000 gallons of water. The shrimp are fed a commercial feed designed for shrimp being grown at high stocking densities. Aaron explains, “The biofloc contributes some nutrition as well. Our shrimp shed their exoskeleton every few days in order to grow; these molts can be eaten but the newly molted shrimp are in danger of being eaten, too. At times, molts will accumulate or the biofloc can form a mat on top of the water and we may need to “crop the floc.” We’ll skim some of the floc or molts from the surface, dry them out, and fertilize the garden with the remainder.”
When asked if he had any concerns about beginning this business of shrimp farming, Aaron commented, “Our biggest concern is with getting stock, known as post-larvae or PLs, from the only two nurseries in the country and both of them were in hurricane areas. Hurricane Harvey hit one located in Rockport and Taft, Tex., and Irma hit the other nursery located in the Florida Keys. We haven’t heard back from the Texas nursery but the Florida nursery is hoping to be shipping again at the end of October.”
A larger majority of people are demanding to know from where their food is coming. “Our shrimp, (save for a brief 10-14 day infancy in Florida), have spent their life in Minnesota, inside a building built specifically for them, without being exposed to any pesticides, chemicals, or antibiotics,” remarks Aaron.
Kedron Shrimp Farm offers their “fresh, never frozen, head-on, tail-on, premium Pacific White Shrimp raised in Minnesota” for $20 per pound. Raising shrimp indoors is expensive and challenging. The need to ship in artificial sea salt, maintain the consistency of the water (ideally, 86 degrees) and also pay attention to the pump/blower for aeration, keeps the family busy. “The shrimp will start to die within twenty minutes if aeration fails,” mentions Aaron. “I am grateful for the help of my sister, Dani Terbeest and her boyfriend, Shawn Reichstadt, who have been an enormous help with activities on the farm, helping with many building projects, mixing seawater, transferring shrimp to different tanks, water quality testing, and harvesting.”
One amazing fact about these crustaceans is that shrimp can jump. Aaron muses, “If their first goal in life is to taste fantastic, then their second goal is to jump. We heard about their jumping ability doing our research, but it doesn’t really prepare you for when it happens.” Aaron describes this impressive feat saying, “We have netting around the tanks about 30 inches high. Even so, a week ago, I saw a shrimp jump three feet straight into the air. As he got higher, my jaw went lower and I told my mom, “We’re gonna need a taller net!”
The family has been selling only at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market and find it interesting to see the reaction people have when they tell them that the “Fresh Shrimp” sign advertises shrimp which are not up from the Gulf, but from their own tanks 25 miles away near Spring Valley. “I’ve been speaking with Rusty and Tanner Hellickson at the Valley Butchery and Meat Market about distributing our shrimp,” concludes Aaron. “We’re still checking on any necessary permitting and other details, but both the butchery and our company are excited about the possibility of a local partnership.”
For more information on Kedron Shrimp Farm and purchasing Minnesota Fresh Shrimp, contact Aaron Terbeest at (507) 951-3675 or email him at email@example.com.