Monday, July 25, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Something new is in store for seafood lovers who dine at Las Vegas casino restaurants.
Yes, that’s right: Shrimp farmed locally rather than flown in from the Gulf, thus shrimp that are fresh, not frozen.
The farming process comes from scientist Adrian Zettell, who is chief operating officer of the only saltwater harvest pond in the U.S.
More than 3.5 million Mexican white shrimp will be harvested in small ponds inside the Blue Oasis farm in the desert. The big white structure made of fabric houses ponds treated with a special formula and produces no wastewater.
The baby shrimp are pathogen-free and are brought into the pond from Florida at just 5 days old. The harvest process in which larva grow to mature shrimp takes about 120 days, after which the shrimp are packed in ice and delivered to the casinos.
According to the company’s CEO, Scott McManus, Las Vegas is the highest per capita consumer of shrimp in the country. He saw a need and an opportunity to create jobs.
Kevin McManus, operations manager of the $5 million farm, said it has created 20 jobs and plans to expand after the first harvest.
“We hope to start Phase 2 shortly, so that would bring anywhere from 20 to 40 employees” in addition to the existing workers, he said.
Jobs include harvesting, sorting and packaging shrimp for high-end restaurants. The first harvest will be in September and shipments may be made every other day.
According to Michael Minor, executive chef at Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, sustainability — meaning shrimp aren’t overharvested — is key in shrimp farming, and the reason he plans to use some shrimp samples from the farm in his popular tequila dinner next week. He’s already tried the shrimp and says they’re flavorful and fresh, exactly what the Border Grill is looking for.
“What they do coincides with what we do; we buy only sustainable seafood,” Minor said.
Blue Oasis plans to expand further, distributing to local restaurants and specialty meat shops, as well as to Reno and Kansas City, Mo.