As the world’s population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, there is a need to find more sources of food. Seafood is one of the main foods people consume, and aquaculture is increasingly becoming a viable way to produce and meet the growing demand.

By definition, aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of both plants and animals in all types of water environments—freshwater or saltwater. Farming species that live in the ocean is called marine aquaculture while freshwater aquaculture pertains to the culturing of species that live in rivers, lakes, and streams.

Aside from being an answer to our Food Supply concerns, inland aquaculture or fish farms can help mitigate climate change, according to Fast Company. Livestock farming, which produces protein-rich foods such as pork, beef, and chicken, is a large contributor of greenhouse gases. Seafood is a healthier alternative source of protein, and inland farming helps lessen ocean pollution, ecosystem degradation, plus habitat and biodiversity loss. It also helps avoid the use of pesticides, which is linked to climate change.

1. The U.S. is a leading seafood importer but a minor aquaculture producer

As mentioned earlier, aquaculture has the potential to address global food security needs. Marine scientists from the University Of California, Santa Barbara, led by Professor Rebecca Gentry, conducted a study, along with researchers from the Nature Conservancy, the NOAA, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution last August, the study demonstrated that there is a considerable potential to develop aquaculture, particularly fish farming around the world. The industry can grow as much as 15 billion metric tons of finfish every year. That is 100 times more than today’s global seafood consumption rate.

Still, despite the statistics mentioned earlier, the U.S. is 17th in aquaculture production in the world. It lags behind China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh, the Republic Of Korea, Norway, Chile, Egypt, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, according to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.

In contrast, each year, the U.S. imports billions of pounds of seafood. The country’s aquaculture industry today can only meet about seven percent of the total U.S. demand for seafood, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries). This highlights the need for the U.S. to establish and grow its own sustainable aquaculture to provide a safe seafood supply for American consumption.

Marine aquaculture in the U.S. produces oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels, and salmon, as well as cod, moi, yellowtail, and seabass. It can be done in the ocean using cages placed on the seafloor or suspended in the water, but it can also take place inland through man-made systems.

Likewise, freshwater fin-fish aquaculture can also be done in inland systems or in ponds, producing primarily tilapia, trout and bass.

2. Aquaculture is a vital support to seafood production

Overfishing continues to deplete the natural population of many seafood species, including shrimp. Add marine pollution, climate change and other ecological impacts from human activities, and a sustainable seafood production are threatened. This is one of the reasons why aquaculture is essential to seafood production, not only in the U.S. but other parts of the world as well. In 2014, U.S. aquaculture farms yielded 608 million pounds of fish and shellfish amounting to $1.33 billion.

However, U.S. harvests of fish and shellfish from the wild are still seven times more than what is produced from aquaculture farms.

The U.S. can tap the potential of aquaculture to provide most of the country’s seafood demand.

NaturalShrimp, Inc. (OTCMKTS:SHMP), a global shrimp farming firm based in the U.S., has developed an innovative approach to making inland aqua farming more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. Its enclosed patent-pending system is designed to produce a consistent supply of natural, fresh, and gourmet grade shrimp on a commercial level anywhere in the world.

This is in contrast to other existing closed system technologies which in high-density environments and on a commercial scale are rarely successful due to crop failures from a build-up of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

3. Shrimp is the most imported fresh or frozen product in the U.S.

The U.S. is the largest market for imported shrimp, with 606,000 metric tons imported in 2016. Fresh or frozen shrimp are the top imported products, which accounts for 33 percent of all imports by weight. The U.S. saw an increase in the demand for raw shell-on, raw peeled and cooked shrimp last year.

Since the country imports most of the seafood Americans consume, the public faces potential health risks. For example, 94 percent of shrimp consumed in the U.S. came from countries in Asia and Latin America. They use potentially harmful chemicals in packaging, as well as an excessive amount of antibiotics that can be unsafe for human consumption.

Ocean-caught shrimp are often dipped in sodium tripolyphosphate and flash-frozen to preserve freshness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year rejected about 133 consignments of shrimp from India, China, and Vietnam after it found prohibited antibiotics in them.

Despite the demand, there are relatively few U.S. farms that produce shrimp. With increasing food safety and supply issues, domestic shrimp farming is attracting renewed interest.

4. There are innovative aquaculture technology and processes in the U.S. that make it more sustainable

Aquaculture does not come without challenges. Marine aquaculture also faces various obstacles like polluted waters. Algal bloom and dead zones, for instance, have affected the Gulf Coast the last few years; the 2017 dead zone, covered 8,776 square miles, which is an area the size of New Jersey.

Modern technologies are used in aquaculture, especially in inland systems, to overcome multiple challenges. These include Closed Recirculation Systems (CRS), which involves recirculation systems to reduce, reuse and recycle water. Many also utilize an integrated manure denitrification system. This system processes concentrated waste flow from a fish farm in a bioreactor containing denitrifying bacteria, as well as Biofloc, a loosely held, miniature collection of materials and attached organisms that species such as shrimp consume.

However, existing technologies also have other challenges such as the buildup of bacteria and system crashes that can kill the entire crop. NaturalShrimp, Inc. experimented with Biofloc technology for years and ultimately abandoned it.

The technology proved to have various issues, not allowing a highly dense and commercially viable production.

To address such challenges, NaturalShrimp developed a game-changing production system that incorporates a patent-pending technology called Vibrio Suppression. Vibrio Suppression allows for higher population densities and consistent production, with better growth and survival rates. It excludes and suppresses harmful organisms like bacteria that can completely destroy shrimp crops in enclosed production facilities. This technology also allows the company to produce four times the amount of shrimp in the same space compared to older, outdated technologies.

NaturalShrimp’s patent-pending proprietary technology does not require the use of antibiotics, probiotics and potentially toxic chemicals to produce an all-natural, fresh shrimp product.

Production facilities can be located near high-demand, less price sensitive metro areas so that the company can deliver a fresh, gourmet-grade product to institutional and retail customers.

The company plans to install the first Vibrio Suppression system at its facility in La Coste, Texas and roll out additional facilities in the New York/New Jersey area and Las Vegas. NaturalShrimp is also working on international expansion plans with European strategic partners such as GambaNatural de España, S.L.

As the demand for meat protein continues to grow in the U.S., innovations such as NaturalShrimp’s Vibrio Suppression can help make aquaculture more sustainable, commercially scalable and more efficient than other cultivation technologies.

5. Aquaculture is a large market and can be quite profitable

The global aquaculture market is projected to reach $209.42 billion in 2021 from $156.27 billion in 2015. Advanced techniques and tools will drive profitable growth especially in North America and Europe. These products are expected to command premium prices due to freshness alone. Blue Tiger Shrimp Aquaculture (BTSA) Managing Director Joerg Meier, for instance, expects to receive their return on investment in four years with premium shrimp being priced at $70 per kilogram.

The global shrimp market itself is huge and growing. It is currently valued at $39.1 billion and is expected to reach $67.5 billion before 2028. According to Future Market Insights, the sales revenue for this period will put the industry’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 5.6 percent.

Demand for U.S. shrimp consumption will only continue to grow, especially as consumers look for high-quality, natural and consistent sources of shrimp.

The aquaculture industry is continuously innovating, and companies like NaturalShrimp are expected to make land-based farming more sustainable, reliable and profitable. Aside from meeting consumer demand, investment in this market sector can also bring jobs and other growth opportunities for many communities throughout the U.S.