High-tech, sustainable shrimp farm in Alberta ready for first harvest

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s economy diversifies as new shrimp farm opens'
Alberta’s economy diversifies as new shrimp farm opens
WATCH: Landlocked Alberta is now home to one of the only commercial shrimp farms in Canada. Global News' Tomasia DaSilva reports on the new farm and why some say it makes good economic sense – May 1, 2019

A new high-tech, sustainable indoor shrimp farm is setting up shop near Strathmore, Alta.

Yes — you read that right — the first batch of fresh seafood will soon be available in the landlocked prairies of Alberta.

For starters, Waterford Farms and marketing partner Teja Food Group, a Calgary-based business, will produce around 2,000 pounds of shrimp per week.

From the water filtration system, which cleans tanks at least once an hour, to where the shrimp are housed, it’s a $3 million investment.

The technology is how the operation manages water circulation and provides a healthy environment, said Keith Driver with Waterford Farms on Wednesday.

“Everything in there is a nice, humid day in June every day: same feed, same water quality, same oxygen levels,” he said.

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Driver said the team has the experience and means to harvest shrimp without touching them — no need for netting or ponds.

“The feed system is used in hog barns to move feed around, so we took that,” he explained. “The water treatment system we have is used to treat human waste… We’ve taken all those tools and put it together to make it work.”

Shrimp at the new farm near Strathmore, Alta. Global News

Shrimp that’s flown into Alberta from overseas have some quality concerns and are tied to issues around slave labour, Driver said.

“This is one of those products that we all eat that has a very high environmental footprint, from the harvesting from the ocean’s perspective,” he explained.

“We grow our proteins close. We grow our veggies close. We’re trying to do that sort of local supply where the chef can come out and say, ‘I know where that came from,’ like we would do with beef, like we would do with hogs and lamb and everything else. Seafood has just been neglected in that.”

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Keith Driver and Tom Grande stand in front of the tanks at the shrimp farm near Strathmore, Alta., on May 1, 2019. Tomasia DaSilva/Global News

Tom Grande, senior vice president of Teja Food Group, said this is the company’s first venture into fresh food production.

“Teja’s motto is globally sourced, local values and now we’re able to switch that around and be locally sourced and global in strength, so we’re really excited,” he said.

“Plus, to be involved in something that’s sustainable, local — we’ve been looking for that for a long, long time.”

The project has been in the works for two years.

The farm put in the first crop of shrimp in January, and that’s expected to be ready for harvest and available to restaurants and retailers at the end of May, Grande said.

It’s a small step in diversifying the province’s economy away from predominantly depending on oil and gas.

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“I think it shows us the ingenuity that’s happening here in Alberta,” Grande said.

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