Will Ecuador be the Future Aquaculture Center of the World? – Part 3

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the USB (United Soybean Board) 2014 See for Yourself Program.  The See for Yourself Program allowed participants to see how U.S. soy is used throughout the world.  On our tour we had the opportunity to visit Panama and Ecuador. 

Guayaquil, Ecuador was our next stop after Panama.  The population of Guayaquil is similar to Chicago at 2.7 million people.  Guayaquil is located on the western coast of Ecuador.

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Shrimp Farm Tour – Ecuador is well known for its aquaculture production.  In particularly, they produce a large quantity of shrimp, tilapia, and tuna.  We had the opportunity to visit a shrimp farm and a feed mill that produces food for shrimp.

The shrimp farm that we visited was around 690 acres, and the field (or pond) that we were at appeared to be around 5 acres.  For reference, an acre is about the same size as a football field.   This farm fed their shrimp two times per day.  They find that the shrimp do better being fed fresh twice a day rather than being continuously fed.  The employees monitor the oxygen in the water several times per day.

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The employees showed us how they feed the shrimp. There are feeders under the water that are pulled up and they manually fill them.

This shrimp farm was located fairly far away from a community so there were dorms on site.  The employees live on site for 11 days then return home for 4 days.  I understood that 30-40% of the shrimp is exported to the U.S.  The farm is paid for the shrimp on a per pound basis, and the managers told us they prefer to sell the shrimp with their heads as they can capture more money per shrimp.

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The shrimp were huge!

Harvesting shrimp – We did not actually see the harvesting process, but this was my understanding of how the shrimp are harvested.  It is a several hour process to harvest as the pond must be drained.  The drains are covered with netting.  As the water drains, the shrimp move with the water to one area of the pond.  The shrimp are then collected in nets and shipped out to a processing facility in refrigerated trucks.

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Shrimp captured in the net to show us.

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Hands down – the best shrimp I’ve ever eaten. So tasty!

Feed Mill Tour – We were also able to tour a feed mill that makes feed (or food) for shrimp, as well as other animals.  The feed mill was very modern, and looked similar to feed mills that I’ve been through in the U.S.  They had similar safety precautions that one would see in a U.S. facility.  One thing that was interesting to me was that we noticed a lot of landscaping at this plant.  The tour guide said that there is a mandate for 10% green space, and this plant chose to do landscaping which was very appealing.

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Feed (food) for shrimp

Several customers that we met with in Ecuador consistently said that they have a preference for U.S. soymeal.  They mentioned that U.S. soymeal has a consistent quality, and there is a freight advantage out of the U.S. to Ecuador.  It takes 8-10 days to ship U.S. soymeal from the Gulf of Mexico to Ecuador (the variance of time depends upon how long it takes the ship to go through the Panama Canal).  However, most expect the shipment time to be reduced by one day once the Panama Canal expansion is complete.  It takes about 18 days to ship out of the Argentine port.  The buyers explained that the soy from Brazil and Paraguay will ship down the Parana River to the port in Argentina, similar to how grain is shipped down the Mississippi River to New Orleans for export out of the Gulf of Mexico.

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Bulk Port In Guayaquil – soymeal

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Bagging machine to bag soymeal. The soymeal can either be shipped by bulk in trucks or in individual bags.

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Clamshell used inside ship hull to unload bulk product such as soymeal.

We visited Andipuerto Terminal Port which is the bulk port.  {If you recall, in Panama we visited a container port.}  The main difference between this port and one in the U.S. has to do with the labor availability.  In Ecuador there are many people so rather than putting in a conveyor system to move the bulk product (like a U.S. facility would), they unload onto trucks which transfer the product from the ship to the storage facility.  With all of that truck traffic, it makes me wonder how many accidents and down time they have.  My brother is a diesel mechanic, so I was interested to learn that their on-site mechanics all must go through a Caterpillar certification process.

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Trucks used at the port

Next Stop – Quito, Ecuador the mountainous region

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