Superintensive Sea Urchin

Commercial Superintensive Raceway Sea Urchin Farming
The market value for sea urchin uni (i.e., roe, sometimes called “tongue”) for human consumption is over $300,000,000 per year and increasing at a rate of more than 10% annually. At the same time, natural sea urchin populations are being significantly reduced due to the increase market demand for urchin uni, the ease of capture of sea urchins from natural populations, and the slow recruitment. For example, the export of urchin uni to Japan from the United States in the mid 1990s was greater than $170,000,000, whereas in the early 2000s it was less that $80,000,000. Urchin natural populations in the Gulf of Maine have decreased by 90% due to overfishing for uni, resulting in a decrease from 20+ processing plants for urchin uni in the mid 1990s to only one by the mid 2000s. The demand for sea urchin uni exceeds the natural supply. This catastrophic situation can be resolved by commercially farming sea urchins for the production of uni.

The People’s Republic of China and Japan are utilizing offshore sea urchin farming and stock enhancement. Unfortunately, this approach is unpredictable, expensive, and potentially damaging to the environment. The technology for commercially producing adult sea urchins on land in raceways does not exist in Asia.

Commercially farming urchins in raceways on land, using a methodology similar to that utilized for super-intensive raceway production of shrimp is the solution to the problem.

  • Market value of farmed sea urchin uni: $25 to $200 per kilogram, with a value as high as $1,000 per kilogram.
  • Though the production technology for sea urchins is similar to that for shrimp, the value of shrimp tail muscle: $8 to $20 per kilogram.
  • The potential for developing commercial sea urchin farms for uni production is huge.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research Mariculture Laboratory at Port Aransas
Development and demonstration of new technology at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Laboratory at Port Aransas includes

  1. Production of marketable size sea urchins per hectare of water per year (using raceways equivalent to levels greater than 120 metric tons per year, starting with 5- to 10-mm diameter sea urchin seedstock (juveniles) produced from the sea urchin hatchery phase.
  2. Biosecurity programs used for shrimp have been applied to sea urchin production. No significant diseases have been observed for sea urchins raised at this Laboratory.
  3. Development of low-cost commercial feeds with the necessary dietary nutrients for production of more than 120 metric tons per year per hectare of adult sea urchins with marketable uni (with a survival rate greater than 90% and with feed conversion ratios than 1.5) has been accomplished.

Technology Development
This new technology will allow the development of commercial sea urchin farms with

  • Production levels greater than 120 metric tons per hectare per year.
  • Increased predictability of production with increased survival on a year-round basis(production of every month of the year instead of seasonal).
  • Decreased feed costs (lower-cost higher-quality feed and lower feed conversion ratios).

These new technologies offer the potential to develop commercial sea urchin farms with an estimated internal rate of return of greater than 25% for temperate countries such as the United States, European countries, People’s Republic of China, and Japan.

The Texas AgriLife Research Mariculture Laboratory at Port Aransas is the largest sea urchin and shrimp research laboratory in the world, with more than 900 tanks and 13 recirculating systems.  This Laboratory has a world-class level reputation and continued support for technology development, ensuring that commercial companies associated with Texas AgriLife Research will always have cutting-edge technology available to them.

Development of Economy-of-Size Superintensive Commercial Sea Urchin Farm
A commercial economy-of-size farm will produce a minimum of 500 metric tons of sea urchins per year with a minimum investment of $3,000,000. This will provide the potential of a minimum of 25% internal rate of return, with an expected 33% internal rate of return.

0 to 2 months:     Develop the business plan
3 to 4 months:     Develop the blueline engineering plans for commercial farm
5 to 40 months:   Complete construction of the farm
Production will commence at the beginning of month 18 to 24, with a positive cash flow between month 36 and 42.

Contact: Addison Lawrence
1300 Port St.
Port Aransas, TX 78373

Comments are closed.