David Barnes, the President of the technology-driven RAS Technologies, points out the global need for environmentally sustainable food production in light of the ecological damage, complex supply chains and deficiencies in food safety and traceability caused by historical production methods. The company’s solution is to establish sustainable aquaculture practices by implementing innovative indoor, land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems (“RAS”) globally. The company’s initial, state-of-the-art facility is located in Aylmer, Ontario (a two-hour drive outside of Toronto, Canada) and they have aspirations of building additional facilities in the United States and internationally.
RAS Technologies was founded as a start-up to develop a revolutionary technology to grow premium, healthy shrimp free from harmful chemicals in an ecologically friendly and environmentally sustainable manner. The team has developed an innovative indoor, clear-water, closed-loop aquaculture technology that produces premium Pacific White Shrimp. The company seeks to become a world leader in the deployment of this best-in-class technology and aims to deliver a healthy protein to millions of consumers – a product free of antibiotics, hormones, and harmful chemicals while ensuring end-to-end traceability. It plans to do so by expanding its footprint to help supply healthy meat-based protein as stocks in the wild diminish and legacy outdoor farming’s continuing reliance on unhealthy chemicals and environmental destruction increases. The company benefits from a cohesive team that has achieved innovation and been resourceful through close collaboration. When faced with developing first-of-its-kind technology such as their patented systems, success can only be achieved through complete collaboration, and the RAS Technologies team encourages input from anyone at any time as the company’s technology continues to evolve.
RAS Technologies has patented, leading-edge, proven technology to sustainably produce seafood indoors on a commercial scale. The company’s proprietary technology enables the sustainable and responsible farming of shrimp anywhere in the world, indoors on a commercial scale with negligible production waste or adverse effects on the surrounding environment.
RAS Technologies’ primary products include Pacific White Shrimp tails, which are de-headed, peeled, and de-veined and typically sold in 1 lb. packages. Pacific White Shrimp are prized for their large size, tender texture, and mild flavor. These are marketed under the ‘Planet Shrimp’ brand and are marketed to its customers as “ locally and socially responsibly raised, free of harmful chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, and other pollutants, and therefore qualify our shrimp as a premium product.” These delicious, premium shrimp tails are individually quick frozen, which freezes the product within 8 minutes of the harvest to lock in freshness, ensuring unparalleled product quality.
The company aims to replace a portion of the current supply of imported farmed shrimp raised under questionable practices with locally grown, clean, and healthy products raised responsibly, safeguarding the environment. David asserts that the company’s shrimp are far superior to imported ones and represent a new category of premium, sustainable shrimp. He continues to say that as compared to legacy farmed or non-farmed shrimp production, its technology has the following key differentiators: environmentally sustainable, efficient land usage, lower carbon footprint, zero production waste, zero harmful chemicals, and premium quality.
The RAS Technologies team conducted eight years of intensive research and development culminating in what the company believes is the ‘first of its kind’commercial scale, closed-loop indoor bio-secure stacked raceway production system featuring highly automated, purified clear water recirculation systems. The company has a patented system process design featuring stacked shallow water raceways and proprietary intellectual property, which enhances production yields. Its production systems are supported by an internally developed, fully integrated, and proprietary software system which monitors and controls the process and provides vital system data to its internal team of technicians on a real-time basis.
Challenges as an Industry
David points out that the industry is facing many challenges:
- Environmentally Destructive: Overfishing has resulted in ocean deterioration and declining seafood stocks, wild-caught shrimp is plagued by significant bycatch, and the inland ponds used in traditional shrimp farming cause ecological devastation and sizable carbon footprint.
- Foreign Supply: 90% of shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported from countries with minimal food safety regulations.
- Harmful Chemicals: Traditional shrimp farms engage in the widespread use of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.
- Limited Traceability: Current methods have limited cold-chain traceability, the country or region of origin is often unclear, and there are significant issues involving product fraud/mislabeling.
Keeping up with technological advancements
David states that due to the substantial need, there is a widespread willingness to adopt the technology. He adds, “The legacy shrimp industry consists of two primary methods of production: open sea, which accounts for approximately 45% of global production, and inland outdoor ponds, which account for approximately 55%. Management believes each method is fraught with significant environmental and food safety issues.” In the open sea, the wild-caught shrimp supply is quickly becoming a diminishing resource due to overfishing. This production method is environmentally destructive and has potential human health implications via microplastics. Meanwhile, the company believes that legacy shrimp farming via open, inland outdoor ponds is unsustainable, with declining yields due to escalating disease and environmental deterioration, reliance on harmful chemicals, and limited product traceability.
For these reasons, the company believes a shift has begun in adopting more intensive, socially responsible, eco-friendly, closed-loop land-based farms. RAS Technologies has been working extensively to address these challenges and believes it is well positioned to capitalize on this trend.
Time to expand with data
RAS Technologies’ in-house developed software monitors and controls multiple system parameters on a real-time basis, including pH, water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, density, and animal health. Fully integrated with its physical infrastructure, the software has been designed to facilitate real-time remote monitoring and analysis based on high-resolution imagery and full-farm connectivity. The company’s software is critical to its operations and will be instrumental to managing the expected significant increase in production levels in the next several years. It specializes in handling functions like production management, automated feeding, monitoring and control, alarm management, and reporting and documentation.
The company intends to expand its existing facility and build multiple new facilities in the U.S. over the next five years, expanding annual production to over 10 million pounds. Unique to other aquaculture projects, its facilities are located inland and have almost unlimited flexibility on where the company locates them. David envisions focusing on owned facilities in the U.S. adjacent to urban centers in areas that optimize input costs and financing options. The expanded capacity is expected to allow for scalability, efficient logistics, large-scale food distributor relationships, and a multi-national branding strategy.
The company expects that over time, ‘Planet Shrimp’ will be synonymous with (i) environmental sustainability, (ii) pure, clean, and healthy protein, and (iii) the best-tasting shrimp in the world. “Chefs praise the taste and texture of our product,” concludes David.