By YAN DONGJIE in Beijing and MA JINGNA in Lanzhou
The landlocked province of Gansu in Northwest China is an unlikely place to find South American white shrimp, but nonetheless, a cooperative in Yanuan town is expecting to ship some 4 metric tons of them this Spring Festival.
Gansu, known for its mountainous and desert landscapes, is as about as far removed from the Pacific Ocean around South America where white shrimp are mostly found.
Inside sheds at Fengsen Aquaculture Farmers’ Professional Cooperative in Yanuan in Linze county, Zhangye, farmers observe great pools where the shrimp grow. They feed them regularly and adjust the water temperature and oxygen content.
White shrimp are popular on Chinese dinner tables because of their thin shells, plump bodies, delicious meat and nutrition.
“Our first batch of shrimp went on the market in May, and we have sold more than 5 metric tons so far,” said Ma Guibin, the cooperative’s deputy general manager.
The cooperative began cultivating South American white shrimp last year using fry from Sanya in Hainan province. It has achieved a survival rate of over 70 percent and has generated income exceeding 1 million yuan ($13.9 million).
Ma said the water in Yanuan is strontium-rich and good for growing shrimp, and the system for circulating water the cooperative uses has been independently developed.
“From shrimp fry to market readiness takes about three months,” he said, adding that to create a suitable environment for the white shrimp, farmers produce a special mix of seawater and keep it at a temperature of around 30 C.
He said Linze county first introduced a white shrimp aquaculture project from Shanghai in 2022. In December, the first phase of the project was completed, with the construction of 20 breeding ponds, a water storage pond and supporting monitoring, disinfection and purification systems.
The cooperative has invested 110 million yuan in the second phase of the project, building a system for cultivating mandarin fish and perch. Once the project is completed, eight greenhouses, two water sheds and a laboratory will increase production, sales and aquaculture efficiency.
“The production capacity will be more than double that of the first-phase greenhouse, with an annual output of 60 tons,” Ma said.
Chen Yanlong, deputy director of the fishery administration bureau at the Gansu Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said the province began cultivating the shrimp in 2017 and initially conducted experimental aquaculture using abandoned saline-alkali land in Jingtai county, in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.
“We have basically mastered the desalination technology for the shrimp fry,” he said. “The main aquaculture models are land-based factories, circulating water aquaculture and saline-alkali pond aquaculture.”
Chen said shrimp aquaculture in Gansu now covers a total area of over 40 hectares and an annual output of 100 tons.
In addition to South American white shrimp, crab and trout are also cultivated in Gansu, with its rainbow trout production accounting for 30 percent of the domestic total, he said.
“Cultivating seafood in the desert and turning saline-alkali land into treasure is benefiting the people in the inland areas of Northwest China,” Chen said.