Commentary: A Novel Method for Clean Food Production, While Simultaneously Bending Down the Curve of Global Warming

Source: John Novitsky, CEO, AquaPrawnics,  and Lisa M. Farmen, Principal Engineer/Managing Member, Aquastry, (503) 544-2330. Jan 10 2020

The purpose of this article is to encourage the members of the NW Chapter of the Clean Tech Alliance to visit our website, then to become investors, employees, scientific or legislative partners.

Shrimp are the world’s most popular seafood, and the USA is the world’s largest market for shrimp. Some 94% are imported; nearly all are frozen, contaminated (both wild caught or farmed- just different contaminants), and unsustainable. The UN estimates that 85% of wild fisheries are over fished and in danger of collapse. With world population predicted to rise from some 7B today, to some 9B by 2050, and with climate change putting additional stress on our oceans, it is easy to imagine things getting worse before they get better.

AquaPrawnics has a proprietary method of farming shrimp indoors. Our shrimp are chemical free, fresh (not frozen) and sustainable. We farm them at a rate almost 100x lbs./acre/year more than conventional outdoor shrimp farms, at a similar cost/lb. Further, the market is willing to pay us a premium. We can build our indoor shrimp farms anyplace in the world where we can either buy or make cheap electricity.

Our first location, where we “buy” inexpensive renewable hydro-electricity, is in western Montana. By the time you read this article, that site will be in production.

Our next locations are where we will “make” our own heat and power. The lowest hanging fruit is when we co-locate our indoor shrimp farm, at a farm. We consume the renewable Ag waste as our fuel, and the farm consumes the solid wastes as a soil amendment- eliminating transportation costs of bulky items. Let us describe how our process works at a 10,000-acre farm in the Central valley of California.

This site has 1750 acres of almond orchards; they also farm row crops of corn, oats and alfalfa as feed for dairy cows and beef cattle. They have 6000 head of dairy cows, and 600 head of beef cows. Our “standard unit of production” for the indoor shrimp farm is 16k sq. ft of building. It requires 1500 acres of almond orchard wastes annually (dead trees, tree trimmings, waste almond shells). We don’t use combustion; we use pyrolysis to produce the electricity and heat. The electricity runs the pumps, filters and lights, while the otherwise waste heat (in the form of warm water) is used to maintain the temps of the warm water shrimp. The process captures over 90% of the Carbon from the Ag waste (which was just going to be burned (releasing CO2) in a solid form called “bio-char”. Bio-char, when tilled into the soil, has a half-life of between 400 and 1000 years. The bio-char is used in three ways:

  1. Bio-char from the dead trees and tree trimmings is combined with the solid waste products from the shrimp farm (heads, guts, shells, feces, etc.), additional ingredients are added, then composted and turned into an organic soil amendment which goes right back into the farmland from where it came.
    1. This captures the carbon and eliminates the air pollution caused by burning the Ag waste.
    1. Orchards in particular cannot rotate crops- they are particularly extractive. By restoring the Carbon with a slow release soil amendment, this vastly reduces the water pollution due to run-off of liquid fertilizers.
    1. This reduces the irrigation water needed- by reducing soil compaction which increases water holding capacity- particularly important in Calif central valley, and in Western Washington state.
    1. It appears to be less expensive to use this method of soil amendment, than to pay for traditional fertilizers- so the program pays for itself, i.e. the farmer reduces costs/increases profit.
  2. Food grade bio-char, made from the 2.8B lbs. of annual waste almond shells, is few to the dairy cows and to the beef cattle. The benefits include:
    1. The cows grow 10% faster/bigger on 10% less feed.
    1. Methane emissions per cow are halved.
    1. Butterfat content of milk is increased.
    1. Overall cow health improves, and mortality rate drops.
    1. The benefits to the farmer pay for the feed additive.
  3. The bio-char has a benefit when passed out of the cows/cattle in the feces:
    1. For the free-range beef cattle, the cattle poop where they wish, and as they free range, they push it into the pastureland with their hooves. Over a period of 2 years, it is expected that additional fertilizers will no longer be necessary in the pasture, and that irrigation water of pasture will also be reduced.
    1. For the dairy cows, the feces are rinsed into a waste lagoon. There, the bio-char performs multiple chemical “cleaning” functions of the liquid effluent (similar to the functions performed in the cow rumen), which bind the harmful chemicals to the solid bio-char, which enables the use of the remaining liquid as irrigation water, while the remaining waste solids are a better soil amendment returned to the farm.

There is research planned throughout 2020, in cooperation with UC Davis, with three departments of Calif state government, and with Wash State Univ, to measure/demonstrate all of the benefits described above.

For those interested in carbon sequestration, there is a legislative team headed by an environmental lawyer out of Bellevue, Wash, which has already attracted bi-partisan support from multiple states. It is modeled after 45Q, a carbon tax credit given to the oil and gas industry (for injecting CO2 as a gas into oil wells). Our solid form of Carbon, as bio-char, will still be in the soil centuries after their pressurized CO2 gas escapes via micro-fractures.

In 2018, we looked hard at co-locating our indoor shrimp farms in the forests of California, Oregon, or Washington, to provide a commercial use for the hundreds of millions of trees weakened by the drought, then killed by the bark beetle. Our analysis showed that for every $2 of fuel (20 tons of forest waste) it would cost about $200 of transportation costs. That’s why we initially co-locate at farms- where the transportation costs of the renewable input fuel and the delivery costs of the organic soil amendment are negligible. We won’t rule out co-locating in a forest, we just have to be careful about where.

This process scales worldwide. We already have “soft” orders to build similar sites in Puerto Rico and in Vietnam. In summary, we can simultaneously both produce “clean” sustainable protein for a growing world population, while bending down the curve of global warming (via both carbon sequestration and by methane reduction from livestock).