Newcastle University students Tim Heyes and Ed Tame have established The Fresh Shrimp Company, a business tapping into heat from Lynemouth Power Station to produce ant unlikely product for the chilly North East: tropical king prawns.
The firm uses a heat recovery system, which recycles process heat from the nearby power station, to bring the North Sea waters to 28C (82F), the optimal growing temperature for the king prawns.
The business partners have developed an on-site process in Ashington, Northumberland, to produce high quality local produce, also eliminating issues associated with importing frozen prawns over long distances from Asia and South America.
Mr Heyes, 26, said: “What is unique about our technology is that we have a source of heat through our relationship with the power station, which provides a constant supply of fresh, warm and gravity-fed seawater. This offers many environmental and economic benefits.
“There are many similar sites across the UK, and we hope that our model could become a blueprint for harnessing heat technology from industry into food production.”
One of the benefits of the heat recovery technology is that it enables sustainable farming of traceable and antibiotic-free king prawns.
Mr Tame, 25, said: “The prawns we grow are traceable, which means that we assign an ID and track every batch – from the supplier all the way to the consumer’s plate.
“The disease and pathogen free larvae we purchase come from a known and trusted supplier. We don’t add chemicals and we work with organic feed only, all of which ensures that our product is antibiotic and hormone-free.”
The duo met while studying for an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at Newcastle University. But it wasn’t until they both enrolled on a MSc Aquaculture Enterprise and Technology course, that they came up with the idea to tap into the process heat recovery technology.
With seed funding from family members, and guidance and advice from Rise Up, the University Careers Service support programme for student and graduate entrepreneur, the duo launched their start-up by purchasing and constructing their own facility.
The business partners will be supplying their product to local restaurants in Northumberland, with the first batch of prawns from the Fresh Shrimp Company becoming available in either December or January.
And they are already eyeing expansion, through the delivery of a new batch of 25,000 larvae this month and the installation of a 14 cubic metre recirculation system, which will help them produce more than 2,000 prawns per month. Further down the line they plan to develop a two and half tonne facility, consisting of eight large tanks.
Longer term, using the Fresh Shrimp Company as a flagship, the partners hope to develop their relationship with other process industries, combing expertise in food production and process heat recovery technology to replicate similar systems not just in the UK, but worldwide.
To help raise funds to support the growth of their venture, they are launching a crowdsourcing campaign via Kickstarter.