Redefining Local

By Brett Barest | February 07, 2017
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Urban Seas Aquaculture

For most people, the idea of “locally raised shrimp” here in the Upstate makes about as much sense as “mountaintop real estate in Florida.” Fortunately, Val Minkowski is not most people. Because of her work at Urban Seas Aquaculture, we are about to rewrite the playbook when it comes to local, sustainable seafood.

Minkowski’s story began with a six-year- old’s dream of growing up to be a marine biologist. The vast majority of us don’t actually become those firemen, rock stars, presidents, or whatever we thought we’d become as mythical adult creatures, but Minkowski stayed her course and achieved her dream by earning a PhD in Fisheries and Aquatic Science. And then she moved to Greenville.

She immediately recognized some very obvious truths. The Upstate shrimp supply is maintained through some fairly unsustainable practices. Wild caught shrimp are scooped up in nets that dredge the ocean floor and disturb the natural ecosystem. Traditionally farmed shrimp destroy coastal mangrove forests, which hardly seems like a reasonable alternative. Her research in sustainable shrimp farming practices led her to the new and emerging world of aquaculture where one could farm their own shrimp humanely, sustainably, and most importantly, right at home.

When a six-year-old girl says she’s going to grow up to be a marine biologist—and then she does—you do not question her potential when she then says she’s going to raise shrimp in Greenville, South Carolina.

Urban Seas Aquaculture is one of only a dozen indoor shrimp farms in the entire country. The practice, however, makes perfect sense—create an environment that shrimp thrive in, with no negative impact to the local ecosystem, and deliver locally-raised, fresh out-of-the water shrimp to the market. She bases her approach on what she’s learned reading every bit of aquaculture research she can get her hands on, and what she knows about a shrimp’s natural habitat through her marine biology studies.

Her husband, Austin, likens the process to that of a traditional produce farmer. If a farmer has good soil, he knows his plants are going to thrive. Minkowski tests the water constantly to make sure temperatures, salinity and pH balance are ideal for the some 20,000 Pacific White Shrimp she’s raising. To date, she has hit every data target on the mark. Far more than beginner’s luck.

Once these shrimp hit their ideal size, Urban Seas Aquaculture aims to provide the freshest farm-to-table offerings the Upstate seafood community has ever seen. Restaurants can call in their order and, within an hour, pick up shrimp ready for that evening’s dinner service. Typically the shrimp will be sold completely intact, as the heads are an indication of the shrimp’s freshness and, some might argue, a culinary experience in their own right.

Minkowski admits that the whole endeavor is a leap of faith, borne out of her desire to eat with a clean conscience. Fortunately for the rest of us, we can enjoy the fruits (pardon, shrimp) of her labor and passion.

Urban Seas Aquaculture
110B Augusta Arbor Way

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