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Chad and Keely Dutler start a Shrimp Farm near Holstein

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keely and Chad Dutler outside their Shrimp Building. Photo contributed.
Chad Dutler was looking for a way he could stay on his farm north of Holstein and not have to work elsewhere before coming home to farm with his father and brother on nights and weekends. The Dutlers have a cow/calf herd and also raise corn and soybeans.

Bless This Farm - This sign welcomes vistors to the Chad Dutler farm. Photo by Dan Whitney
Chad was interested in perhaps adding an additional type of farming, and after months of on-line research last winter, he decided to look at a type of farming into which only seven other farms in the entire U.S. had entered - raising fresh salt water shrimp.

Chad, 37, a past graduate of Galva-Holstein High School, and Keely, 36, a past graduate of Kingsley-Pierson who works as a Personal Trainer, live on a farm which is located on the very southern edge of Cherokee County (Ida County is literally on the other side of the road), with their three children - Kinzey 11, a 6th grader; Colton, 9, who is in 4th grade; and Shae, 6, who is in first grade.

Their business, Shrimp 59, is the only shrimp farm in Iowa, with the closest one to them geographically being in Fowler, Indiana. As part of their preparation for entering this unique business, Chad made a trip to that farm, which has been in the shrimp raising business for 3 years. Keely went along on another trip after the Dutlers had started their business, and both felt that the owner of the Indiana business had been very helpful to them as they get started in their new venture, which they admit has been a day-to-day "trial and error" learning experience.

Here is a photo of a shrimp during the nursery stage.
Obviously, there are not a lot of fresh salt water shrimp around here, so the Dutlers have the shrimp larvae shipped to them. They purchase the large batches of shrimp larvae (40,000 to 56,000 in each batch) from an SPF (specific pathogen free) hatchery in Florida when they are about 11 days old.

The larvae are shipped in a 2 x 3 cardboard box, which contains a styrofoam cooler with bags of shrimp larvae, stored in 62-68 degree water. Keely travels to the FedEx store in Sioux City about once a month to pick up each batch, while Chad makes sure the conditions in the nursery tank are ready for the newcomers. The water in the nursery tanks at the Shrimp 59 farm are kept at a temperature of 86 degrees Fahreheit, and the Dutlers do nothing to the water but add salt. They emphasize that their system is completely "green." They do not add any hormones, chemicals or antibiotics to their shrimp.

The shrimp stay in their nursery tanks for 30 days, or until they reach a desired weight, and they are then moved into their grower tanks. While in these tanks, which are kept at an 80 degree temperature, the water quality is tested each day, and the shrimp are initially fed a small dose of liquid feed four times a day. The liquid is slowly poured into the tank, and the small microns are mixed with the water and then poured into the tank. As the shrimp mature, they are switched to feed in a pellet form.

Tanks for the memories ... The Shrimp 59 building, which was designed and built by Chad Dutler and his Dad, contains 18 tanks like these. Note the 5 gallon buckets of salt sitting by the tanks. Photo by Dan Whitney
Salt is a very important part of the shrimp growing process, as saltwater is the shrimp's natural habitat, and a large amount of fresh ocean salt is needed for the 18 tanks at the Shrimp 59 farm. The Dutlers have been working 6-7 hours a day since last winter on their new business, and they find that mornings are their busiest time. Not only do the shrimp require their regular feeding, but oxygen and salt levels also need to be monitored closely to make sure the system is as close to nature as possible. The water also needs to be in constant motion, and they do have a generator, in case of a power outage.

One thing Chad and Keely have discovered is that the shrimp like to jump, especially when the lights are turned on or off in the building. They have cut down on the amount of light in the building and have also gone to smaller tanks, which are easier to work in and also easier to put a net over to cut down on the number of shrimp who jump out of the tank onto the floor. As one would expect, shrimp don't last very long out of water, and "dead shrimp aren't any good for the business," said Chad.

When the shrimp have reached their desired harvest weight of around 25 grams, about 4 months after they arrive at Shrimp 59, they are ready for sale. The shrimp are sold live, in baggies of water packed in ice, and customers are provided with a paper advising them how to store shrimp, as well as a couple of shrimp recipes they may want to try.

Ready to go - This shrimp has reached the stage where it is ready to be sold to customers. Photo by Dan Whitney
Customers can reach Shrimp 59 by phone (712-369-3203), e-mail (shrimp59@ruralwaves.us), or on Facebook. The business has a website, www.shrimp59.com, and visitors are also welcome at the farm, which is located at 1641 100th Street in rural Holstein. 100th Street is five miles north of Holstein, and Shrimp 59 is just 1/2 mile west off Highway 59.

The Dutlers say, "Our goal is to provide the surrounding communities with the freshest and most delicious salt water shrimp around. We care about making our customers happy, and hope to provide the shrimp lovers of Iowa with some scrumptious, FRESH shrimp."

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