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Shrimp of various sizes are on display in a tank in the development offices of trū Shrimp Company, which has selected Luverne, Minn., for its first U.S. "harbor" - a 9-acre building in which 124 workers will produce 7 million pounds per year. Photo taken April 10, 2017, Balaton, Minn. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

trū Shrimp Co. picks Luverne, Minn. for production

BALATON, Minn. — The trū Shrimp Company of Balaton, Minn., will locate its first $50 million shrimp production facility at Luverne, Minn.

This growing-finishing facility will raise up to 7 million pounds of shrimp a year — what they're calling a "harbor." The company is using nautical names for shrimp-raising facilities, and Luverne's facility will be called "Luverne Bay Harbor."

The facility is designed to be replicated elsewhere and will work in concert with two other feeder facilities. The second is a hatchery to be built in a renovated food grade building at Marshall, Minn., will be the "Marshall Cove Hatchery.” A third associated training center at Balaton, Minn., called the "Balaton Bay Reef," is next to the trū Shrimp Innovation Center and Laboratory.

Michael Ziebell, the company's president and chief executive officer, says they will break ground for the Luverne facility in 2018. The company recently had narrowed the finalists for the facility — nine acres under a roof — to Luverne, Lamberton and Marshall.

trū Shrimp is working to take a bite out of a burgeoning U.S. shrimp market. About 1.6 billion pounds of shrimp are consumed annually in the U.S., and 80 percent of that is imported. The trū Shrimp product will be in a system of eight stacked tanks with 12-inch deep water, compared to three yard deep water in conventional systems. The system uses highly managed water quality, with patented aspects developed at Texas A&M.

Besides producing shrimp to eat, the process also produces a compound called chitosan, which is created from shrimp shells and has medical uses.

$23M impact

A University of Minnesota study indicates construction of one of the single harbors will result in $14.5 million in labor income and could support 330 jobs. Once built, it would generate $23 million annually in economic activity and employ 124 people. Luverne is a town of 4,745 people at the 2010 Census, is 20 miles east of Brandon, S.D., population 10,000, and about 30 miles east of Sioux Falls, S.D., population 169,000.

"This is a tremendous economic boon for Luverne and southwest Minnesota," Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian said in the release.  "It's also going to benefit the larger rural community.

"I was raised on a farm, my brother farms and I have a lot of friends who are farmers and we are an agribusiness community," he continued. "The shrimp are fed primarily soybeans, corn and hard red wheat, which positively affects the bottom line of every farmer in Minnesota."

The trū Shrimp Company said several states were vying for the establishment of the company headquarters. The Balaton site is located in a former school building that was extensively renovated by its primary innovating parent — Ralco, a third-generation company that produces and develops nutritional ingredients for the livestock, poultry, aquaculture and crop industries.

Ryan Wendland, director of marketing and communication for both Ralco and trū Shrimp, says the company has completed its first round of investment, which is equity in the trū Shrimp Company.

"That was what gave us the impetus to move forward on these projects,” he says.

The company expects there will be opportunities for smaller investors for future harbor projects in other towns, Ziebell said earlier.

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