The Dallas-headquartered company currently has one 40,000-square-foot facility on 35 acres in in San Antonio, where its shrimp is farmed indoors using proprietary technology. But it has set its eyes on building more facilities—foreseen in the near future is one near Las Vegas (which Delgado said consumes the most shrimp in the US), another in the New York City tri-state area, and another for the Mid-Atlantic.
To get there, the company has paused its operations for a lengthy and in-depth audit by a Fortune 200 partner specializing in air quality, details of which Delgado wishes to keep under wraps for now.
Once done, the partnership will give birth to a new and enhanced system that can bring high quality shrimp to US consumers more quickly, cheaply, and in a manner better for the environment. “We could produce—in 20 cities—quite a bit of shrimp, in the billion-dollar revenue range, and we’d still only have 5% of the market, to show you how big the market is,” Delgado said.
Americans are eating more shrimp at home
NaturalShrimp’s technology produces gourmet-grade shrimp in an indoor, re-circulating saltwater facility to raise Pacific white shrimp on a weekly basis. It’s fully automated, so minimal labor costs are involved.
“The average price [of shrimp] in the US is $10 per pound,” he said. “Our production costs run about $5 to $5.50, so you could see there’s a tremendous financial market for what we’re doing right now.”
Ramping up production is necessary because, as Delgado observed, there’s demand more than ever for fresh shrimp. “We started this whole process back in 2001, we have focused on the chef network and restaurateurs—the majority of fresh products have been used in that area,” he said.
“It’s shifting now. Shrimp—all foods, actually, people want to know where it’s coming from, they want to know it’s safe. There’s demand coming now for fish, beef, chicken, and shrimp is no different—they’re all looking for quality product on the fresh side,” he added.
At food trade shows, NaturalShrimp found that if it fulfills estimated orders from just two major retailers such as Wegmans or Whole Foods, there won’t be enough. “The beauty of what we do is we can go pretty much anywhere in the world and scale our project and production, so we’re aiming at these targeted distribution centers.”
Better than the other shrimp
Globally, there’s no shortage of shrimp. But the world’s largest exporters of shrimp (and the US imported 603,591 metric tons of shrimp last year, per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries) tend to be developing countries, an industry ridden with problems from little oversight on hygiene and safety to concerns about slave labor.
Shrimp farming is a perfect solution, Delgado argued. “It used to take a trawler 21 days to get 50,000 lbs of shrimp, now they need 30 days,” he said. “Then when they catch it, they dip it in a sodium-based preservative, and then they flash-freeze it, and [retailers] defrost it and call it fresh.”
Shrimp, which live in confined spaces in the wild and are bottom-feeders, are not any better wild-caught than their farmed counterparts, Delgado claimed. “With our system, we produce out of one tank in a 24-hour period around 6,000 lbs, and it really replicates [the shrimp’s] natural life.”