When they first went into business in 2015, the fledgling shrimp farmers produced in small volumes. They contacted a handful of regional restaurateurs as well as retailers and let them try the shrimp. The response of the testers was unanimous: they wanted more! Because these shrimp from the Alps had proven that you can taste the health of an animal, even a small one. And you can see it, too: they have feelers as long as their bodies and quite a tough shell – unmistakable signs of ample space in their water tanks and the outstanding quality of their water and food. ‘You can eat our shrimp raw,’ Flock says proudly. ‘When you fry them, they maintain their form and size. They’re a natural product with their own flavour, because they aren’t pumped full of chemicals.’ The shrimp are killed by quickly immersing them in iced water. ‘This cold shock from 28°C to below 0°C is the most protective method and the cold chain is immediately effective,’ Flock explains. Because, as with cows or pigs, you can taste stress in shrimp – and this mountain-grown variety doesn’t experience any. Flock and Schreiner also pay attention to the feed; they do not feed soya, for example.
Flock and Schreiner’s Alpenaquafarm Tirol GmbH has reached a production volume of approximately 1 ton per month. The entrepreneurs don’t believe in overly fast growth – with respect to either their shrimp or their company. ‘We didn’t want to invest millions right at the start, without first knowing the product,’ Flock explains. ‘We’re constantly growing, but at a healthy pace.’ They sell their shrimp through their own online shop, through selected delicatessen shops, directly to restaurateurs and through METRO Austria. Flock relates that ‘Lukas from the store in Rum and Christian from procurement reached out to us and suggested that we collaborate’ – with the result that the Tyrolean shrimp can now be found at 5 Austrian METRO wholesale stores. ‘We might expand to more in the future, but we’re taking it slowly.’
Decentralised production close to the consumer
Energy-efficient systems, healthy animals, no antibiotics, marine protection – the story of the shrimp from the Alps sounds like a sustainability fairy tale. But can a product that so obviously doesn’t belong to its place of production ever be truly sustainable? ‘When you go into a shop and have a look at their offerings,’ Flock says, ‘you find a very large number of products that we see as native today, but that once weren’t. Technological progress opens up completely new perspectives when it comes to taking a food originally from another region – like the shrimp – and making it “native” to a particular new place. And most importantly, without overfishing, without antibiotics and without living conditions that are unfit for people or animals.’ Flock is confident that, in the future, ever more foods will be produced this way: decentralised and close to the consumer. His mountain-grown shrimp show that it is already possible today.