Our story – how did we get to where we are now?
Great British Prawns is a pioneering aquaculture company on a mission to produce fresh premium-quality king prawns in the UK using the most innovative and sustainable processes. This year we have launched the UK’s first land-based clean and clear water prawn farm.
Having witnessed first hand the challenges facing the industry, both in terms of keeping up with demand and the damage to the environment, Dougie Allen, James McEuen and the team decided to create a new solution that would address these issues.
As a result we’ve brought together some of the best minds in aquaculture to develop a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) to create a sustainable prawn production model that is a world first.
The technology developed allows the prawns to be farmed in a closed-loop system in land-based tanks in clean water without polluting the environment.
Our unique system differs from other land-based prawn farms by using clean water that is recycled (which means that there is no need to use the antibiotics and chemicals widely used in other systems) and avoids the need to handle the prawns manually. The controlled system allows a humane and clean environment with virtually no waste.
It recycles over 99% of the water and there are plans in development to convert prawn waste to generate further revenue streams. Algae for young prawns is currently grown in-house using waste.
Having developed the technical solution, the team found a site which supplied sustainable energy – an anaerobic digester provides heat and electricity to the farm that would otherwise have simply been wasted. The farm is also ideally situated for urban centres like Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Great British Prawns’ king prawns will be supplied fresh to restaurants within a few hours drive time of the farm – a far cry from the frozen prawns from Southeast Asia and Central America that mainly supply the UK.
Feedback from chefs has been overwhelming to date and the first commercial harvest will take place shortly.
We plan to upscale and build additional farms nationwide in the next few years, serving as regional hubs for restaurants across the UK.
Why was this new farming solution needed?
By 2050 it is estimated that the global population will have increased to 9.2 billion people and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states that global aquaculture needs to double in size over the next decade to keep pace with demand.
Over-fishing, the mismanagement of crucial feeding grounds and unsustainable farming methods are threatening the resilience of many fish stocks and the overall long-term supply of farmed fish to the global market.
Alongside this background of growing demand, the sector recognises that it also urgently needs to move towards sustainable production by the close of 2020. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), published a new farmed prawn strategy report in December 2018, stating that only 8.8% of global production of farmed prawns is “improving”. SFP has set the goal of seeing 75% of the world’s seafood production operating sustainably or moving towards sustainable production by the close of 2020.
Demand for prawns is also significantly on the increase:
- Prawns are the most valuable traded marine product in the world today. In 2005, prawn farming was a $10.6 billion industry. Today, production is growing at an approximate rate of 10% annually—one of the highest growth rates in aquaculture.
WWF (Farmed Shrimp)
- As a result of demand, an 18% increase in prawn production is predicted according to survey of current and future global prawn production presented by Dr James Anderson at Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) 2018 GOAL conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
- The global prawn market is expected to reach a volume of 5.83 million tonnes by 2024, growing at a rate of 3.73% (compound annual growth rate) during the forecast period (2019-2024).
The majority of the UK’s king prawns are sourced frozen from farms in the Far East and Central America, a model widely criticised for its damaging environmental practices:
- The use of protective mangrove ecosystems for pond construction.
- ‘Slash and burn’ style use of ponds for a few years before moving to new areas.
- Salinization of groundwater and agricultural land.
- Pollution of coastal waters by pond effluents.
- Overuse of marine meals leading to inefficient use of vital protein sources and the disruption of marine ecosystems.
- Biodiversity issues arising from collection of wild seed and broodstock and the introduction of non-native species and their attendant pathogens.
- Farm discharges, causing pollution in prawn growing areas.
In a bid to address these challenges, Great British Prawns, along with its commercial and academic partners, has built the world’s first environmentally and economically sustainable land based clean water prawn farm using the most innovative and sustainable processes.
Great British Prawns’ sustainable and local approach has the potential to lead a transformation in the way prawns are produced. It aims to meet growing UK consumer demand for regional and local food production with the reassurance of outstanding husbandry, provenance and sustainability.
This farm is a world-first in terms of technology and sustainability producing some of the most outstanding and delicious prawns in the world.
What’s our biggest success to date?
Being the first to bring this technology to market and seeing our prawns thrive in the optimum conditions we’ve created is our biggest achievement to date.
It has taken years of research and development, and time to find the right people from all over the world, to create a successful business model and identify the right location for the farm.
Given the pressure on the climate, the team know that we need to act now; we hope that by leading the way and showing others how we can create a sustainable business using this new technology, this will pave the way for developing a more sustainable industry.
Our success has been reinforced by the overwhelmingly positive response of the chefs who have sampled our product. Sustainability is crucial but at the end of the day it’s vital that we produce something truly delicious.
What are our plans for the next 12 months?
The current focus is on delivering a consistently frequent harvest of prawns and ensuring our new facility is working as efficiently as possible. It is hoped that by constantly improving design, Great British Prawns will ensure all its facilities are virtually waste free and because of the closed filtration system don’t require antibiotics and other medication.
We’re also really excited about the products we can create with what others may see as waste. There will be exciting launches in the near future as we see waste as a resource. We already grow our own algae for prawn feed!
We’re also very focused on growth and plan to expand our current farm and open other regional hubs across the UK to supply restaurants.
Why is now the right time for GBP?
Great British Prawns has created a world-first by producing the technology to build the first clean, clear water land-based prawn farm with an environmentally and economically sustainable production model. The business is tackling and delivering a sustainable solution to some of the most urgent issues of our time – environmental degradation, demand for food and sustainability.
Currently most king prawns have been frozen and travelled 6,000 miles by the time they reach the consumer, not to mention the extremely damaging farming techniques used in the first place. Great British Prawns hopes to lead the industry by investing in this new aquaculture technology and demonstrating its advantages while creating a quality, premium product. If we are going to keep pace with ever-rising demand for prawns, while not damaging the marine habitats with unsustainable practices, we must transform aquaculture and seafood farming. Creating a clean and sustainable business model while producing a superior product, is to be lauded.
What makes our farms and our prawns different?
Our clean water land-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) technology is a world-first and has been developed in close collaboration with experienced industry practitioners and academic partners from around the world.
The innovative bio-filtration system developments ensure the wastewater is biologically remediated and suitable for reuse within our facilities – which means nothing is wasted.
Delivering prawns fresh to the table within hours of harvest considerably reduces the carbon footprint whilst maximising product quality. At the same time the production model is designed for maximum sustainability through the use of renewable energy and waste streams.
Great British Prawns has considered every aspect of production to ensure the business and farming methods are sustainable and have minimum impact on the environment:
- Innovative Use of Existing Technologies Using proven methods of producing and saving energy and heat (insulation, solar/wind/biomass generation etc.) each of the facilities is designed with minimal impact on the environment at the forefront of our minds.
- Building Upon New Technologies Our ongoing innovations will enable us to clean recirculating water within our systems using cutting-edge bio filters to capture any uneaten food/animal waste and turn it into a high-quality fish food component.
- Truly local Each facility is designed for deployment near towns and cities in order to minimise the time from harvest to table. As demand rises, the facility can be easily scaled up with production units added as required.
- Complete traceability Truly local produce means a direct line from tank to table. Farmed prawns can take up to a year to get from their country of origin to the UK, and are frozen in the process. Our prawns will simply travel from the farm to the consumer; all within a few hours.
- No vaccines & no antibiotics Because the facility uses a closed system, every growing condition and metric is monitored and adjusted to maximise the animal’s health and wellbeing, eliminating the need for the medications needed in the existing prawn farming industry.
There are other land-based warm water prawn farms that use a more traditional bio-floc system. Bio-floc is an approach that has been widely used across the world and consists of farming in an algal and bacterial soup. This means that in the cloudy green/brown water, prawn husbandry is more difficult with the use of dip nets a necessity. It’s also a difficult environment to control, with the use of vaccines and antibiotics required to counter the higher level of pathogens.