Two Newcastle University alumni have powered up their own sustainable prawn farm by recycling heat from a nearby power station in Lynemouth.
Tim Heyes and Ed Tame, owners and founders of The Fresh Shrimp Company, have implemented a process heat recovery system into their prawn farming technology. By using the water from the nearby power station, the young entrepreneurs are recycling the energy from the station to bring the cold waters of the North Sea to 28°C, which happens to be the perfect temperature for growing tropical king prawns.
Ed Tame told us why he believes that the industry needed sustainable farming. "There have been numerous issues with the current industry of late. Far more media attention is becoming focussed on where our food comes from, how it is produced and so on. Traceability and provenance are now key.
"Slavery within the industry, trash fishing and the use of hormones and antibiotics to speed up growth and increase intensity of production - all encouraged Tim and I to look for alternative methods to get this popular seafood a more sustainable and ethical source. Currently, the cost to heat water and its impact on the environment would reduce the viability of farming tropical species in our temperate climate, however, by working alongside industry and re-using their process heat we can off-set this dramatically."
Tim Heyes explained why their method is so uncommon: “We have a source of heat through our relationship with the power station, which provides a constant supply of fresh, warm and gravity-fed seawater. This offers many environmental and economic benefits. There are many similar sites across the UK, and we hope that our model could become a blueprint for harnessing heat technology from industry into food production.
“The prawns we grow are traceable, which means that we assign an ID and track every batch – from the supplier all the way to the consumer’s plate,” Ed added. “The disease and pathogen free larvae we purchase come from a known and trusted supplier. We don’t add chemicals and we work with organic feed only, all of which ensures that our product is antibiotic and hormone-free.”
The duo’s immediate plans for the future mostly involve supplying local restaurants in Northumberland with their sustainably farmed prawns. The first batch will be ready in December 2014 – January 2015 and once they have generated revenue, the boys will seek to install a 14-cubic meter re-circulation system. By doing that, they will be able to produce over 2,000 sustainable prawns every month. The new facility will be of a higher capacity, and it will consist of eight large tanks.
"By the end of this year we will be underway with the construction of a further 125 cubic metre facility allowing production to be increased to 2.5 tonnes per annum," Ed said. "Once we have proven our abilities, the technology and our market, we will be seeking outside investment to grow our venture substantially."
Once that has been done, The Fresh Shrimp Company is ready to take on the world. Tim and Ed are also hoping to develop their relationship with other process industries, combing expertise in food production and process heat recovery technology to replicate similar systems not just in the UK, but worldwide.
Both Newcastle University graduates, the duo’s entrepreneurial dream came true with the help of the Rise Up programme offered by the Careers Service, aiming to set a new standard in self-regulated business venues.
“After we came up with the business model, [Newcastle University’s] Rise Up team really loved the idea and offered us their full support, which gave us confidence and structure, and ultimately helped us implement our idea,” Ed said. “Rise Up provided us with access to investors and business experts who gave us a great deal of advice and pointed us in the right direction.”
According to data from the Marine Management Organisation, in 2013 shrimp and prawns were the third-most imported seafood species in the UK, behind cod and tuna, with over 85,000 tonnes. Over half the shrimp and prawns imported into the UK were from Asia. The largest exporters to the UK were Thailand (15,000 tonnes) and India (10,000 tonnes).
The business model of the Fresh Shrimp Company helps address the scarcity of locally grown seafood, while simultaneously utilising surplus process heat from industry. This removes the need of flash freezing the products before shipping, which limits their quality and flavour.
When asked what their plans for the future are, Ed said: "We hope to make links with any industry or process which generates heat that is usually wasted in their processes. Heat recovery technologies are continually being refined and released only adding to our venture. It need not be limited to just power stations! The other thing to add is it doesn’t just have to be shrimp; we can re-use process heat for numerous other food production process and with an ever increasing global population, we can only see demand for this growing exponentially."
And of course, Tim and Ed love their seafood buddies as well. Their recipe of choice? Prawns with garlic butter and a splash of chilli.