Five months after an explosion and fire destroyed the main section of NaturalShrimp Inc.’s production facility outside La Coste, the company is rebuilding and expanding.
The Dallas-headquartered firm has committed $2.5 million to construction, including $1.2 million for equipment and building supplies for a second 40,000-square-foot facility at the site off CR 583.
The company this week reported that a new concrete pad is in place, and that 16-foot-high wall columns are going up. Two shrimp grow-out tanks and one nursery tank are also being installed.
The new facility will mirror the adjacent site currently under reconstruction. The site will consist of a 40,000-square-foot shrimp production building that contains twenty 2,000-gallon nursery tanks, forty 20,000-gallon grow out tanks, two 10,000-gallon settling tanks, and one 20,000-gallon harvest tank for a total tank volume capacity of 880,000 gallons.
Office suites, a conference room and reception center at the existing site will be available for use by both facilities.
“Doubling the size of our operations at La Coste will provide us the capacity to scale our business to a level we believe will be required to meet the demand the marketplace will have for our product,” said William Delgado, chief financial officer of NaturalShrimp.
“Our strategy is to aggressively expand throughout the country and become the market leader in fresh, never frozen, naturally grown shrimp, without the use of antibiotics or toxic chemicals,” Delgado said.
The company’s original main building on unincorporated county land just north of La Coste was destroyed March 17 when a natural gas leak sparked an explosion and fire. Firefighters from La Coste, Castroville, Devine, Natalia and Lytle VFDs battled the blaze.
“[The fire] did not destroy our technology or the tremendous business opportunity it provides. It simply delayed our timeline,” NaturalShrimp said in a statement. The company said its insurer, General Star Indemnity Co., paid 100 percent of damage claims, totaling more than $917,000.
Though La Coste itself will not receive any direct tax revenues from the plant, which is two miles outside the town limits, City Administrator George Salzman said the community is “happy to see business coming into the area.”
NaturalShrimp officials have not disclosed projected employment numbers for the plant.
A nearby 8,000-square-foot greenhouse, which escaped the conflagration, is being converted into a water treatment plant. This involves pouring a concrete walkway floor, upgrading the electrical wiring, adding overhead lighting, replacing the outer plastic covering with metal sheeting, insulating the inside surface areas and waterproofing three in-ground concrete tanks.
NaturalShrimp’s patented electro-coagulation (EC) filtration system will operate in this plant. When operational, the facility will treat the shrimp wastewater as it circulates between the shrimp production building and the water treatment plant.
The company has purchased and received three small EC systems that will serve as emergency backups in the shrimp production facility.
Adequate testing of incoming equipment requires shrimp on site. Rather than waiting for the completion of the production building, the company obtained a small number of Postlarvae (PL) shrimp for testing purposes. The three concrete tanks within the water treatment plant can hold about 130,000 gallons, which are available for holding shrimp during testing of the equipment.
In a statement, NaturalShrimp said it “recognizes the extreme importance of safeguarding these new facilities from potential damages or threats. Much thought has gone into their design to protect individuals, the property, the shrimp and company proprietary information. This includes providing adequate physical security, biosecurity and cybersecurity.”
NaturalShrimp claims to have developed the first commercially viable system for growing shrimp in enclosed, salt-water systems, using patented technology to produce gourmet-grade Pacific white shrimp without the use of antibiotics or toxic chemicals.
The company’s stock value tumbled to less than 3 cents a share in the wake of the March explosion. Since then, prices have begun climbing back. The over-the-counter stock closed at 16 cents on Friday, topping a six-month high. The 52-week high was 23 cents.
NaturalShrimp, whose stock is listed as SHMP, has a market capitalization of $85,165,238.
Last week, Delgado announced that the firm filed a listing application with the Nasdaq Capital Market. “If approved, this will provide the company the proper exposure to help broaden our shareholder base and increase appeal to institutional investors, ETFs (electronically traded funds) and indexes,” he said.
With work moving forward in La Coste, Chief Executive Officer Gerald Easterling said NaturalShrimp “is at an inflection point where it can grow exponentially. Uplisting to the Nasdaq would help validate our continued drive to become a leader within the aqua-tech space.”
By Kenric Ward