Research and Development Services
Virginia Shrimp Farms, with research and development assistance from Virginia Tech, is developing large-scale shellfish production using Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). The concept for this project is based on Blue Ridge Aquaculture’s leadership position and experience in RAS technology. It is the Company’s vision to become a large-scale producer of safe, healthy seafood for the US market.
Virginia Shrimp Farms is an integral component of this strategy. As shrimp is the top seafood species consumed in the US, it represents the largest potential market. With a unique production method, VSF can capitalize on the many issues affecting the current supply. Centrally located in the Mid Atlantic, VSF is accessible to major metropolitan areas in the Eastern US, facilitating distribution. Blue Ridge Aquaculture is committed to the success of Virginia Shrimp Farms, and has designated this project as a major priority.
History- Virginia Shrimp Farms was formed in 2007 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blue Ridge Aquaculture. Currently, VSF has performed its Phase I research program in a research facility developed by Blue Ridge Aquaculture. This 30,000 ft2 facility was completed in 2007. The facility includes state of the art equipment and infrastructure necessary to develop production technologies for fish and shellfish species in RAS. It includes dedicated spaces for growout systems, a hatchery and nursery room, broodstock tanks and laboratories. The growout systems include nine independent recirculating systems, each with three separate tanks and their own filtration systems, allowing for testing of multiple variables and parallel controls. The nursery and hatchery rooms contain equipment for live feed production, including an algae culture room, live feed tanks, and distribution systems. The broodstock rooms include a separate filtration system, and darkened rooms with photo-manipulation capabilities. Laboratories are also housed onsite to facilitate chemical analysis and water quality monitoring.Since it was designed as a multi-purpose facility for research into the science, technology, and economic potential of fish and shellfish production using RAS, the BRA research facility is not optimized for commercial production of shrimp or other aquatic food species. The facility has been used to provide necessary research and development prior to the construction of a commercial facility suited for dedicated culture of a specific species.
Blue Ridge Aquaculture expanded its R&D efforts into the field of Aquaponics in 2009. Aquaponics is the “symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment.” BRA utilizes the nutrient-rich water produced by the tilapia effluent (water containing uneaten feed, fish wastes, and ammonia) to grow plants in hydroponic (nutrient film technique or gutter systems), raft (floating Styrofoam boards), and drip irrigation systems. The plants “take up the nutrients, reducing or eliminating the water's toxicity for the aquatic animal.” BRA is currently growing basil, peppers, tomatoes, and different types of lettuces (butterhead, red leaf, romaine and lollo) in a closed loop RAS system, adding only feed for the tilapia. The goals of this research project are to reduce the amount of tilapia effluent normally discharged to the sewer, creating secondary saleable organic vegetable and herb products, and achieving higher overall water quality for the tilapia grown in recirculating systems.