Meet Minnesota's shrimp farming industry: Chad Axley.
Commercial aquaculture barely registers in Minnesota, and shrimp farming would seem impossible. But thanks to an indoor aquaculture system — an up-and-coming technology — Axley transformed himself from a cattle rancher into a shrimper.
Axley, who lives in Elgin, about 20 miles northeast of Rochester, decided to get out of cattle a couple of years ago when high feed prices ate up his profits. He opened his shrimp business — Northern Tide Farm — in January 2013, setting up the tanks in a 3,000-square-foot building that formerly housed horses and cows.
"Basically, I wanted to do something nobody else was doing," Axley said. He believes he's the only shrimp farmer in Minnesota.
Axley gets shrimp when they weigh just 1 gram, and then raises them over 3 months until they are 7½ inches long. His is a locavore business: He sells to area consumers and for marketing relies on his website and word of mouth.
Axley's pitch is freshness.
"It's live when I sell it," he said.
Axley uses a closed shrimp farming system that recycles water, cleaning and purifying it. Such systems "can be far from the ocean — they could be anywhere," said David O'Brien, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's aquaculture office.
"In many ways, it's still experimental. No one is doing it on a large scale commercially," O'Brien said. But "it is poised to become a bigger player in providing seafood."