News Article

Tour on Prawn Farming Set for August 19

By Aces Staff
Jul 14, 2003

July 14, 2003

URBANA - An overview of the freshwater prawn (shrimp) farming industry is the topic of the fourth in a series of tours sponsored by the University of Illinois Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program. The tour will take place from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, August 19, at Tanglefoot Farm in Simpson, two miles west of the U of I Dixon Springs Agricultural Center. Lunch will be provided as well as an opportunity to taste cooked freshwater prawns. The cost of the tour is $10 per person.

"Prawn farming is another enterprise for farmers who need to increase their profit and sustainability," said Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, a U of I research specialist who is coordinating the tours. "There are many opportunities in the aquaculture industry. However, aquaculture has risks similar to those of any farming enterprise. The tour will provide opportunities to learn first-hand the opportunities and risks of freshwater prawn farming."

Grover Webb, owner of Tanglefoot Farm, said that he has been farming since 1972 -- corn, soybeans, beef cattle and hogs. He began raising prawns three years ago with the hopes that it would be a replacement venture to raising hogs. "From the very first year, the prawn business has been profitable, so this month, we're selling off the hogs," said Webb. He said that there are very low input costs to prawn farming. "The important thing is pond construction and the site selection for the pond. Pond and water management is important, too. You have to monitor the oxygen levels."

Webb said that in the tropics, prawn farming is a year-round venture but in southern Illinois you have to harvest the prawns before the water temperature drops below 70 degrees. "We figure a 100 to 110-day growing season, so from about June 1 to October 1," said Webb.

Marketing the prawns has been a learning experience for Webb. "There's a fish farming co-op in Pinkneyville that I can sell to," said Webb. "They'll buy the prawns, but at a lower price per pound so I'm working on developing other markets that will bring in a higher price per pound."

There are six tours being offered this summer through the University of Illinois Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program. The first toured ethnic grocery stores in Chicago and the second tour was of several organic farm operations. "Sustainable agriculture includes alternative farming practices like organic, but it's also about ways to provide an adequate and dependable farm income," said Cavanaugh-Grant. The second tour looked at several successful organic farms, and the third tour was an introduction to community-supported agriculture.

Future tours will include a trip to Hardy's Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul on Wednesday, September 10th when the topic will be agritourism. The tour will include a hay ride and lunch served in the style of the grand Old West.

The final tour is scheduled for Wednesday, October 29, to Pike's Hunting Club in Marion where the topic will be waterfowl fee hunting.

A registration form is available online at or by contacting Cavanaugh-Grant at (217) 968-5512 or Registration at least one week in advance is required.

The tours are sponsored by the Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program and the Illinois Small Farm Task Force.