Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jumbo shrimp is not an oxymoron?

"I am on a sea food diet" offers a wonderful pun on sea and see.  It was funny the first time I heard it years ago, and I still find it funny.

For billions of people, other than a few like Ramesh and me, sea food is not any punch line at all; they love sea food.  The only thing that usually keeps them away from the sea food?  The cost of it.

But, as people get more affluent, they then begin to consume more sea food. Where will all those marine critters come from?

Before you think about that, consider chicken or beef.  Wasn't it the same story?  As people got richer, they started eating more beef and chicken.  Or pigs and mutton.  Whatever. The point is that the demand for animal protein picks up with affluence, right?

How did we manage to meet the demand for chicken? Big time factory production and processing, yes?  Similarly, large pig farms.  So, what is good for the chicken and the pigs is good for lobsters and shrimp?

It looks like that is already underway, "to build the largest shrimp farm in the developed world" but with an interesting twist:
Project Sea Dragon’s viability rests on creating in a laboratory in a few years what centuries of natural evolution hasn’t achieved. Scientists are attempting to unlock the genome of the Black Tiger prawn to make a super invertebrate that will grow faster, fight disease more effectively and taste better than its free-roaming brethren.
“It’s super-charging natural selection,” said Dean Jerry, the professor at James Cook University in Townsville, north Queensland, who leads a team working on the project with funds from Seafarms and the Australian government. “What we’re really trying to breed for ultimately is a prawn which grows as fast as it can.”
Evolution on steroids?
A female Black Tiger prawn produces as many as 400,000 offspring in a single spawn, giving picky scientists a wide range of candidates to advance to the next generation. ... [Seafarms director Chris] Mitchell's goal is to breed such hardy and tasty prawns that the project will never have to catch wild ones again.
Frankly, eating cockroaches of the sea creeps me out.  I find it funny that most of the same people who love to eat bugs from the salty waters are aghast at the idea of eating bugs from land!  Oh well, humans don't always have to be rational, eh!
The first offspring from the project could be ready for sale at the end of 2018, and the site is targeting full output of 162,000 tons of prawns a year. That’s more than four times Australia’s current annual prawn consumption.
The prawns will grow on a 10,000 hectare (25,000 acre) slice of the Legune cattle ranch, near the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. There’s also a hatchery near Darwin, and more than 2,000 kilometers to the west, a quarantine station for the founding families.
Now, before you go ballistic and start criticizing such industrial, factory, production of food, ahem, you may want to check with this op-ed on "Why Industrial Farms Are Good for the Environment."  Blame it all on our affluence, if you prefer--because, the richer we are, we apparently demand more and better food.

As the author notes:
There are no easy answers, but innovation, entrepreneurship and technology have important roles to play.
 There is another option: Eat like how people ate 200 hundred years ago! ;)

3 comments:

Ramesh said...

Inevitable if all the people in the world have to eat. Fast growing, super jumbo rice is in the same league as the shrimps. There is simply no other way.

However, by the middle of the century, the population will stabilise and then start to decline. Despite our living longer. Then the problem will slowly start to solve itself.

Anne in Salem said...

I heard an interview yesterday that included a bit about the environmental impact of eating meat, about which I had read multiple times in National Geographic and other publications. The scientist being interviewed eats seafood. I am ignorant of the environmental impact of eating seafood.

My first thought in reading this was "The anti-GMOs are going to kill this," even if genetic engineering is not involved. I predict these shrimps will be called Frankenshrimps by at least one group.

Quite a few years ago, I read that farmed fish are not as healthy as wild because the farms cannot handle the volume of fish they created. The water doesn't circulate enough, poop accumulates, the fish don't have enough room to move much, etc. Sounds a lot like the criticisms of land animal farms. I wonder if/how these challenges were overcome.

The farm without an IT person (not necessarily full-time, but knowledgeable) is a farm of waste. We cut our electric use in half for the irrigation pumps when we installed a computerized moisture monitoring system. The system easily paid for itself. Our combines have GPS, as do many tractors. The planters are computerized. Soil analysis, plant analysis, even weather prediction. Technology has revolutionized farming for the better.

Sriram Khé said...

"the population will stabilise" ... it will, yes. But,
1. Before it stabilizes, we would have added another 2.5 billion people
2. It is really not the number of people that is driving the demand as much as the affluence. So, when you combine the higher numbers with increasing affluence all over the world, there is no way we can adopt a "the problem will slowly start to solve itself" approach

"and other publications" ... tsk, tsk, tsk ... you don't mention this blog, where I have ranted quite a few times about the environmental impacts of eating meat? tsk, tsk, tsk ... let's see how you redeem yourself! ;)
"Technology has revolutionized farming for the better." Indeed.
But, in the vastness of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, in particular, we are yet to see the kinds of technology that can remarkably improve productivity while also helping the natural environment. Unfortunately, that is where most of the anti-technology battles are being fought by the elites who want to see nothing but organic and traditional agriculture even as they jet-set around the world :(

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