By Choi Sung-jin
Korea's aquaculture technology has made it possible for Algerians to raise shrimp in the middle of the Sahara Desert, government officials said Friday.
"A shrimp farm opened in northern Algeria early this week as part of an official development assistance program of the Korea International Cooperation Agency," the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said. "It will be able to produce up to 100 tons of shrimp in the desert per year."
The shrimp farm, the size of 12 football stadiums, has indoor and outdoor cultivating areas, a research building and a feed-manufacturing plant. Construction began in 2011. Korea Institute for Fisheries Science transferred technology and trained local staff. The experts of the two countries began farming in October, and have already produced 500 kg of shrimp.
What made shrimp farming in the heart of the desert possible – the first ever in the world - was the environment-friendly technology called "biofloc," the officials said. The technology uses microorganisms to purify pollutants in the water in which they will cultivate the shrimp, thus enabling them to recycle the water. This process has been used in Korea since 2011.
"In ordinary farms, we have to replace water ceaselessly, but biofloc allows us to reuse 99 percent of the water except for the water which evaporates naturally," a ministry official said. This is how people have come to cultivate shrimp in a water-scarce region, he said, adding that the farm is using the water 100 meters underground through digging a tubular well.
The "Saharan shrimp" is Pacific white shrimp, which can grow in local underground water containing less salt than seawater. "The average wage in Algeria is about 300,000 Korean won ($250) a month, and the price of local shrimp is 20,000 to 30,000 won per kilogram," the official said, "This project will help the North African country supply shrimp at far lower prices."
About 6.9 billion won has been invested into the construction of the Saharan shrimp project conducted at the request of the Algerian government, encouraged by the success of similar projects with the support of KOICA in the Mediterranean region. By 2025, the country plans to build about 100 more shrimp farms in the desert where there is water underground.
A researcher at the fisheries technology institute said the secret behind the latest success was the "cocktail" – a mixture of phosphoric acid, nitric acid, carbon, ammonia and nitrous acid in perfect proportions – of water in which microbes can reproduce themselves abundantly. The farm is equipped with devices that can measure the water every day and predict the changes in its composition in just 30 minutes.
"This kind of aid project plays an important role in winning support from developing countries throughout the world," the official said. "We will continue to conduct projects using our advanced fisheries technology."