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trū Shrimp signs letter of intent to build shrimp production facility in Luverne

Ralco announced Wednesday its plans to construct a shrimp harbor at Luverne.

BALATON — The trū Shrimp Company announced this week it has signed a letter of intent to locate its first $50-million-plus shrimp production facility, the Luverne Bay Harbor, west of Papik Motors in the Luverne Industrial Park.

Groundbreaking for the harbor is scheduled in early 2018.

trū Shrimp has also issued a letter of intent to locate the first shrimp hatchery, Marshall Cove Hatchery, in Marshall, and will renovate a vacant USDA-approved processing facility in Marshall to prepare more than 8 million pounds of shrimp estimated to be produced by a single harbor annually.

Construction of a training facility, Balaton Bay Reef, will begin this summer in Balaton. This facility, adjacent to the trū Shrimp Innovation Center and Laboratory, will be used to train personnel to work in the shrimp production Harbors.

Construction of the training facility, hatchery and renovation of the processing facility is scheduled to begin yet this year.

Michael Ziebell, president and CEO of the trū Shrimp Company, said construction of the facilities in both Marshall and Luverne are a major step toward developing a large-scale shrimp aquaculture industry in the state of Minnesota.

“What is happening in Minnesota has not been done anywhere in the world,” Ziebell said. “We are creating an industry that will supply the world with safe, clean and abundant shrimp. There are 1.6 billion pounds of shrimp consumed annually in the U.S., and 80 percent of it is imported largely from Southeast Asia. The facilities in Marshall and Luverne will produce the most natural shrimp possible using a sustainable, antibiotic-free, and environmentally responsible approach.

“We are often asked, ‘Why raise shrimp in Minnesota?’, and the answer is because the feed is here,” he added. “Economically and environmentally, it makes much more sense to raise shrimp near their food source than to ship feed to shrimp raised in coastal ponds thousands of miles from the U.S. market. Until now, the technology to effectively raise shrimp in the Midwest United States on a large scale did not exist; now it does and we have proven it.”

Luverne was selected as the site for the first harbor based on its access to abundant water, made possible with its connection to the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (LCRWS) in March 2016.

Troy Larson, executive director of LCRWS, said the harbor will initially need 14 million gallons of water to fill its basins. Once the harbor is in operation, it is expected to use up to 100,000 gallons of water per day.

The high quality and quantities of water from Lewis & Clark played a major role in the decision to locate the first harbor in Luverne, Larson said.

“I have been told flat out that without the Lewis & Clark connection, there is simply no way Luverne could have competed for a harbor,” said Lewis & Clark Board Chairman Red Arndt of Luverne  “One of the main reasons we are constructing this tri-state water project is to provide the member communities and rural water systems with expanded economic development opportunities, particularly when it comes to value-added agriculture, so we couldn’t be more pleased with this announcement. This exciting news will hopefully provide momentum to connect the remaining members as soon as possible.”

An economic impact study conducted by the University of Minnesota (U of M) indicates construction and operation of the facilities in Marshall and Luverne will provide a major economic boost to the region. The study projects the construction of a single harbor will generate more than $48 million in economic contribution. Construction of the bio-secure facility will result in $14.5 million of labor income and support an estimated 330 jobs. Once the nine-acre structure is built, it will continue to generate an estimated $23 million annually in economic activity and provide employment directly and indirectly for 124 people.

“This is a tremendous economic boon for Luverne and southwest Minnesota,” Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian said. “The construction of this Harbor is like the economic development created in Luverne by Mid-Pack during the 1960s. It’s also going to benefit the larger rural community. I was raised on a farm, my brother farms and I have a lot of friends who are farmers and we are an agribusiness community.

“The shrimp are fed primarily soybeans, corn and hard red wheat, which positively affects the bottom line of every farmer in Minnesota. Anytime we can help our local farmers is a plus for Main Street Luverne. When our farmers do well, the whole region does well.”

Marshall and Balaton will serve as the hub of an advanced shrimp aquaculture industry where shrimp breeding and processing will take place. Sites in Minnesota for additional harbors have been identified. Marshall Economic Development Authority Director Cal Brink said becoming the center of a new industry will generate additional high-skilled jobs in Marshall now and well into the future.

“As trū Shrimp continues to grow and develop, Marshall will also grow. It’s a rare opportunity to become the center of a new source of protein production. Immediate construction of the shrimp hatchery and renovation of an existing processing facility is a significant economic driver for Marshall,” Brink said.  

Several states were vying for the establishment of trū Shrimp headquarters and harbors. Minnesota State Sen. Bill Weber and Rep. Chris Swedzinski were strong proponents for the development of a shrimp aquaculture industry in Minnesota.

“The development of a robust shrimp aquaculture industry in Minnesota is important for all of its citizens,” Weber said. “Harbors can be built throughout the state. The shrimp feed will be made from grains grown in Minnesota, which is good for all farmers in the state.”

Shrimp production is not just about protein; there is an important biomedical compound called chitosan that is created from shrimp shells. trū Shrimp will be able to provide the medical industry with a dependable raw material supply.

“An often-overlooked segment of this industry is the chitosan made from the molts (shells) of shrimp that can be used for many purposes including biomedical applications,” Swedzinski said. “Yes, there will be initial positive economic benefits for southwest Minnesota; however, chitosan presents additional benefits throughout the state including urban regions.”

The trū Shrimp Company is an affiliate of Ralco, a third-generation family owned multinational company with distribution in more than 20 countries. Ralco supports large segments of the livestock, poultry, aquaculture and crop industries.