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Meet the Father-Son Farmer Duo Revolutionizing Ontario's Shrimp Business

MULTIZ321

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Meet the Father-Son Farmer Duo Revolutionizing Ontario's Shrimp Business - by Chris Nuttall-Smith/ Food/ Life/ The Globe and Mail/ theglobeandmail.com

"Paul Cocchio’s introduction to inland shrimp farming did not go well. There is no manual, after all, for converting a rural Ontario hog barn into a temperature-stable complex of tropical saltwater shrimp pools – nobody had ever tried it before him. And it’s a surprisingly finicky business growing baby crustaceans, each of them translucent and about the size of an eyelash, into the sort of full-sized, sweet-flavoured specimens that could grace a proper seafood plate.

Cocchio, who had spent most of his life raising pigs and dairy cows and farming his 450 rolling acres, and who had devoted his years so far to the terrestrial and the visible, could barely keep the tiny things alive.

They got sucked into water pumps. They got wiped out from over- and underfeeding; a few grams of food either way spelled certain doom. Last winter, his hot water heaters all gave out.

After years of planning and construction – not to mention the two years it took to have Pacific white shrimp added to the list of species that can be legally farmed in Ontario – the 49-year-old farmer nearly gave up.

“When you’re putting 12,000 shrimp in one of those starter tanks and getting only 500 of them to survive, that’s not great,” he said.

But on a sunny afternoon this month, as his son – and business partner – Brad, swished a net through one of the barn’s ponds, it filled with glistening, fighting, fully grown shrimp. Cocchio looked for all the world like a man who’d discovered the tip of a diamond seam under his living room rug...."

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Farmer Paul Cocchio of Campbellford, Ontario shows off one of the Pacific white shrimp he sells to Toronto restaurants. (Photos by Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)


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