Urban shrimp farming startup Atarraya expands locally, thinks globally about food system

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Atarraya
Image Credit: Atarraya

Related tags Seafood urban farming Shrimp

Urban farming startup Atarraya is launching an e-commerce website to provide locally sourced, sustainable shrimp to consumers from its facility in Indianapolis while also looking for partners to accomplish its goal of operating 400 Shrimpboxes in the US by the end of 2024, company CEO and founder Daniel Russek told FoodNavigator-USA.

"The mission of the company is to enable local and sustainable production of shrimp anywhere in the world. It's a different perspective on how tech can help us get to a more sustainable food system, so we are not focusing on building a new product [and then] telling people this is what you should do. We're basically looking at a product that the market already wants, but that their supply chain is very problematic.​”

Delivering on the need for sustainable, local seafood

To grow its shrimp, Atarraya converts cargo containers into Shrimpboxes with technology to monitor water quality, regulate temperature and oxygenation, and feed its shrimp, Russek said. Since all the growing and harvesting of shrimp takes place within these cargo containers, Shrimpboxes can be placed in urban centers to provide a local alternative to frozen shrimp or fresh shrimp that's shipped from miles away, he added. 

"We developed a technology stack that is biotech, software, and engineering in order to make shrimp possible in a place like Indianapolis. So a year ago, we raised our Series A,​" Russek said. "We are selling our product to different food service customers, but we are also making it available for the local community, so that they can buy shrimp that was raised a few miles away from their houses instead of thousands of miles.​"

Atarraya launched an e-commerce site, which will allow consumers in Indianapolis to buy shrimp directly from the company. The shrimp are available in medium (41-50 count/lb.) and extra jumbo (21-25 count/lb.) sizes and are available for pick-up twice a week at Atarraya's shrimp farm, where consumers can see where the shrimp were produced.

The demand for locally grown foods is increasingly important to younger consumers, Russek said. While admitting that it would be hard to revert back to locally sourcing all the food we eat, urban farming projects like Atarraya’s allow consumers to add more local options, he added.

"We're not only looking for the cheapest source of calories. We're also looking for environmental optimization; we are asking questions about what is the impact that our food has on the ecosystem.​”

Demand for seafood remains stable in US, increases globally

Though the fresh and frozen seafood market overall has seen new highs during the pandemic, volumes and dollar sales have begun to drop​ this year. Spurred by inflation and shifting consumer behaviors, the amount of finfish and shellfish purchased in 2022 was in the mid-teens to nearly 30% year-over-year, in comparison to high double-digits in 2020, according to Circana data analyzed by 210 Analytics​. 

Despite recent declines in the US market, the global seafood market is growing as the middle class grows across the globe, Russek noted. The global seafood market is expected to grow from a $250.02bn market in 2022 to $349.5bn in 2027, according to Statista data​.

“In case of animal protein, seafood is the fastest growing. And this makes sense because people realize that our dietary needs are changing,​” Russek said. “As developing countries get more people into the middle class, they start to eat basically more seafood. They start to eat more animal protein in general, but more seafood in particular.​” 

Looking to scale-up Shrimpboxes

With the facility in Indianapolis now open and serving the public, Atarraya is looking to “start transferring [its] technology​” to partners in the years ahead, while continuing to support its current farming footprint, Russek said. Atarraya has been approached by a Japanese conglomerate to expand Shrimpboxes into Southeast Asia as well as prospective partners to bring Shrimpboxes to their local communities, he added.

Right now, we have 150 people that want to be Shrimpbox farmers that have gone through our webinar, and they are basically on our sales pipeline. We're basically looking for the first two partners. The first two partners that we will support building their own Shrimpbox farms with the hardware, with the inputs, with the remote monitoring, with ... software. And if they need support in the go-to-market, we will support them as well.”

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