Cheltenham restaurateurs plan UK prawn farm to slash carbon footprint of seafood imports

Prawns

The man behind Cheltenham’s fine-dining East India Café, which he sold in early 2020, and the Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar, has set up a new business to develop the technology to produce seafood in a specially-built prawn farm in the UK. Prawns have long been a staple on British menus but they are normally imported from countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

Michelin Guide restaurateur and entrepreneur Litu Mohiuddin has more than 20 years of experience in diverse fields of food & hospitality, fundraising, aquaculture, marketing and journalism and is co-founder and managing director of One More One Group.

He’s joined in the business by Rasel Mahmud, who worked for Marks & Spencer as a commercial food manager and in other food and hospitality sectors before joining with Litu at the East India Café and Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar,  and together the duo have set up Land Ocean Farm which aims to create the technology and network to produce seafood in a land-based and bio-secure environment in the UK.

Land Ocean Farm PR pictureThe men plan to build a land-based shrimp farm using a re-circulating aquaculture system, at a location yet to be agreed. This, they say, will help combat food fraud and food miles to provide healthy, nutrient-dense and pollution-free seafood at an affordable price for restauranteurs, retailers and consumers. The initiative will also create a diversified income stream for UK farmers.

But farming seafood in such a land-based system is challenging, according to industry insiders, and few UK companies have succeeded. Speaking exclusively to Business & Innovation Magazine, one said: “These are warm water prawns and they need to be reared in water temperatures of 29-30 degrees. If the water temperature dips, the prawns won’t thrive and grow to the same extent. The biggest traditional cost of rearing prawns is the feed. Adding on the cost of maintaining a constant temperature will be expensive, which is why it’s been difficult to rear prawns commercially in the UK.”

However, Land Ocean Farm is working with Farm 491, the Agritech Incubator and Innovation Space at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester to bring Litu and Rasel’s ambitions to life. And there is a big market to go for if they succeed.

UK restaurants and retailers import 721,000 tonnes of fish and seafood every year. Of this, 78,000 tonnes are prawns and shrimps, often shipped from thousands of miles across the globe and their quality is inconsistent, often poor, and expensive.

Rasel said: “Traceability and transparency in the fish supply chain is poor. Despite Europe’s very strict food safety policy for many products, seafood shipped from across the world is difficult to trace, due to a fragmented and under-regulated system. This makes it difficult to know if harmful chemicals, antibiotics or hormones have been used in the production and shipping process.

“By developing bio-secure, land-based, aquaculture production facilities in the UK, Land Ocean Farm aims to produce consistent supplies of fresh, quality shrimp, that addresses traceability as well as environmental issues in current supply chains.”

Producing shrimps in a land based farm will reduce the carbon footprint, food miles and biodiversity pressures of overfishing in natural water resources, producing seafood sustainably and responsibly. The indoor recirculating system will operate using green energy from an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to provide heat and power while water is recycled many times over and any organic residues are returned to the AD plant creating yet more green energy. Being produced in the UK for the UK market will reduce energy requirements and carbon emissions resulting from freezing and transporting containers of shrimp from distant waters.

Working with world-leading aquaculture experts, Land Ocean Farm has established the technology and will be building its first plant in 2022. Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world and this will be the largest scale producer yet in the UK. Land Ocean Farm plans to partner with farmers looking for diversified income, to build satellite units for production and enhance the circular economy.

For example, farmers can use excess heat from AD plants powered by farm waste, as well as use crop by products to make fish feeds and generate fish waste compost to add nutrients to their soil.

Rasel said: “Our success in aquaculture depends on others being successful with us, so we want to collaborate and create that success together.

“We were introduced to Farm491 through our mentor Rod Horrocks, who specialises in engineering and change management, and Dr Malcolm Dickson, a fisheries and aquaculture expert, who has been part of the project since its infancy stage and who continues to be a core part of the team and business.

“Sarah Carr at Farm491 has stimulated very valuable third-party discussions and insight, both putting wind in our sails and challenging us and asking the difficult questions. Farm491 has been key to making introductions and highlighting relevant webinars, and we’ve come into contact with some really interesting people we wouldn’t have otherwise.”