Daniel Russek, the visionary CEO and founder of Atarraya, had a passion for solving the unsustainable practices of the traditional shrimp farming industry. This drive was ignited during his college years when he witnessed poverty among fishermen along the Mexican coast.
The shrimp farming industry is antiquated and bad for the environment. Russek pioneered technology using microbial communities to balance production ecosystems, eliminating the need for water exchange. The end result is a sustainable way to farm fresh shrimp.
This innovative solution resulted in the birth of Shrimpbox, a container-shaped hardware that can be installed anywhere on the planet, even near cities, as it is independent and completely disconnected from the natural environment.
Initially, Atarraya exported fresh and sustainable shrimp to the US via plane, but soon realized that this model was not sustainable for long-term growth. In response, Russek and his team shifted their focus to developing the technology further to grow shrimp in the US in an economically viable manner. This resulted in the creation of a ‘take away system’ for shrimp farming, which offers numerous benefits, such as reduced labor costs, energy consumption, land use, and construction costs.
Shrimpbox replicates the natural processes in the oceans by nourishing a microbial ecosystem that takes care of the shrimp, providing an environment in which they are protected and able to mature, with no need for water discharge. The technology, called biofloc, minimizes the use of water and eliminates the need for antibiotics and other harmful chemicals, while emulating what happens in the ocean. The AI software system allows for remote management production, eliminating the need for specialized personnel. This innovative solution is revolutionizing the entire sector.
What are Atarraya’s plans for scaling up its operations and expanding its shrimp production in the future?
We will enable around 40 units in Indianapolis this year and find customers for our product in the US. We will build more farms wherever we find the most promising markets. We will enable local, sustainable, and fresh shrimp for major city centers in North America. Then, we will partner with international operators for bringing this solution to the best-fitting markets.
Who is the usual customer of Shrimpbox?
Right now we are working mostly with farmers as Shrimpbox offers a production alternative that US farmers need, especially those who previously worked farming poultry, pigs and other livestock. The technology used by Shrimpbox allows for the production of shrimp in cooler climates, which in turn means the possibility of fresh, high-quality shrimp in cities that today depend solely on importing frozen product.
More importantly, Shrimpbox is 100x more space-efficient than traditional farming, delivers 10x higher profitability and 43% higher production volumes at the same investment cost — but yields 621% higher income, 10x higher profit and 10x higher ROI. This technology also cuts production costs by 40% compared to any other inland alternatives. In addition, Shrimpbox produces 20x more shrimp than traditional farming with 3x the shelf life. Shrimpbox’s technology combined with 20-25% ROI, low labor requirements and high profitability in a massive global market with proven demand makes it extremely attractive for early farming adopters.
What does the future for aquaculture look like in US?
It’s a very interesting question. I think it will depend on what will happen with two main dynamics that have to do with the regulation on standards for imported goods, on the demand side, and the economic viability of inland aquaculture, on the supply side.
As long as consumers have the possibility of buying products with no safety, sustainability or even humanitarian standards for very cheap, they will keep doing that. The US is self-sufficient for 80% of its caloric demand. Seafood is probably the biggest exception to this self-sufficiency.
On the other hand, it appears that the only viable future for US aquaculture is inland production. I think that as long as the industry keeps trying to outsmart nature with Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), that won’t be possible.
How to change the bad reputation that shrimp farming has?
The only way to change the bad reputation of shrimp farming is to fundamentally change how it works. There is no way to do wild shrimp farming without harming the environment and there is no way to realistically prevent unethical labor practices that are rampant in the industry. Therefore, the approach to shrimp farming needs to be solved with aquaculture technology that makes it both ethical and sustainable.
As AI gets more and more popular, do you think it will change the aquaculture industry?
Maybe. There are some specific applications that are the right fit for current AI models, mostly about understanding and modeling complex biological processes. For instance:
- One of the most promising is understanding microbial communities and their interaction with gene expression and nutrition
- Automating pathological and stress monitoring in the culture with computer vision
- Finding undiscovered patterns in growth, feed restriction and other zootechnical strategies.
Probably the most important aspect is the intersection between an expert system that “knows” how to grow shrimp and automates decision-making and basically orchestrates the whole operation, coupled with automation of day-to-day tasks. This won’t automate 100% of the decision-making and labor, but it’s great to leverage to increase the human bandwidth.