ND Farmer`s Unusual Crop | VideoKevin Boughton | 2/16/2011
On a street corner in Newburg is a white building which easily blends into a snow-encrusted landscape in early February. But in this unassuming building, formerly the town market, a conference room has replaced display freezers and shelves of dry goods have morphed into a purified water pump. Since the facility started breathing new life about ten years ago, no members of the media were allowed in, “This is the first time many of the hundred or so people in this town have ever seen the inside of this facility,” says Adrian Zettell, who is farming what could be North Dakota’s most unlikely crop.
Having grown up in Los Angeles, CA, Adrian Zettell was sure he`d be pulling clubs out of a golf bag professionally, he says, he played on some semi-pro tours until an accident ended those dreams. But in all the time spend wondering ‘what-if’ did he think he would spend his days pulling shrimp from a tank rather than clubs from a golf bag. “There`s no way I would have ever come up with a concept, the belief doing anything other that playing golf,” says Zettell.
Neither did Zettell’s wife, a Newburg native.. who Adrian met while living in California.
“My wife would have bet every dollar on planet Earth in existence that she would have never moved back to Newburg, North Dakota and been a shrimp farmer.” But that`s just what the Zettell family is doing. When Adrian was dating his then-girlfriend the two were driving through Rugby when he was inspired by the challenge to grow salt water shrimp in a place 1,330 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. “I thought you have to do it here. It is the best place to prove the technology.”
Now, ten years and over one million dollars later, many of his neighbors in Newburg know he is a shrimp farmer but still have never seen his farm. And he says he is not deaf to the whispers, “You know, so many people think oh we`re growing shrimp, it`s gonna smell awfully fishy there- well I’m on the corner of Main Street and you can’t smell anything. So it was the perfect way to prove all aspects of the technology.”
Using water purification and environment control technology developed with his father... Zettell looks to take the seafood industry by storm. It does not happen instantaneously. In addition to splitting time between North Dakota and Las Vegas, where he is developing a commercial-sized farm, Zettell says it is not uncommon to spend upwards of 50 hours a week with his shrimp. “Since we control everything we`re also responsible for it all; that`s where the work comes in,” Zettell explains.
Now Zettell and Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp are ready to take their North Dakota-grown harvest to market. “People used to say money grows on trees, I don’t think so. I think it grows in water,” Zettell said through a grin.
As his operation expands into places like Las Vegas... this former golfer from sunny California says he is spending more and more time talking with investors and arranging the business side of the operation, however, he says his greatest joy is working with the technology and proving the system, first developed with his father in the California sun, is capable of