The creator of Shrimpbox, a sustainable “plug-and-play” shrimp farming technology, is swimming to the surface after being in stealth mode since 2019. The Mexico City-based company has secured new funding, $3.9 million in Series A funding, and a new US headquarters in Indianapolis.
The company claims it’s a “world-first” technology of its kind, and Atraya founder and CEO Daniel Russek told TechCrunch that Shrimpbox was an idea he got after college in 2005 when he started working with non-governmental organizations. Fishing communities.
That spawned a startup company from Rusek and his team called Mariculture Vegas. That company is primarily focused on aquaculture biotechnology, including the challenge of growing shrimp in a closed loop.
“We want to make the shrimp business more sustainable and more productive without destroying the environment,” Rusek said. “We decided to bet on the technology and became a startup. We raised some money, we got some help from the Mexican government.
However, in 2019, the company realized that the challenge was a little bigger than the founders had previously imagined. In addition to biotech, Rusek felt there was a need for software and automation components. So they created an American company called Ataraya, which was challenged to make shrimp farming technology sustainable and more affordable.
The Shrimpbox Farming System allows farmers to develop vertical submersible farming operations. This includes cargo containers that can be stored even in landlocked areas and moved to meet production needs.
The three-dimensional technology includes the Biofloc technology, which creates an ideal environment to protect the shrimp from disease and without the need for antibiotics or harsh chemicals and can require less water. Then there is the aspect of software that helps with remote operation management, as the production and work flow is modeled by data, so it is easy to train and carry out farm operations. Finally, automation and engineering components supported by artificial intelligence are designed to remotely monitor water quality, control temperature and oxygen, and feed shrimp.
“This technology is basically a hyper-module solution for everything,” Russek said. “The idea is that we can use Shrimpbox anywhere in the world with plug-and-play ready and efficient intermodal transportation.”
Now armed with $3.9 million in Series A angel investment, the first Shrimpbox prototype is currently being assembled in Guapinole, Oaxaca, Mexico, and a farm for training and demonstration purposes is expected to open later this year in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
The funding was led by Jeffrey Hoering and a team of angel investors, including Mark K. Gormley, Jeffrey Kalish, Robert Stavis and Robert Goodman. This brings Ataraya’s total funding to $10 million, Russek said.
The company grew its Mexican business 5x between 2020 and 2021. Rusek Ataraya expects to start an early adoption program in 2023 and scale up in the second half of the year.
“That growth has now put us in a very strong position to make an impact in the industry,” he said. “Our goal is to create a new agricultural industry in the United States and create infrastructure and technology that is as easy to use as a washing machine so that anyone can become a shrimp farmer.”
While Ataraya works with real shrimp, lab-grown and plant-based options have seen love from venture capital this year. For example, South Korea-based CellMEAT raised $8.1 million for lab-grown shrimp.