Tracey Carrillo shows the small pools where “almost microscopic” shrimp come into his grow-out facility. Shrimp are raised in larger pools on a cottonseed-based feed.
Las Cruces, N.M., probably wouldn’t make the list of the places you’d most likely go for fresh shrimp. But if you’re in town on the right day and get in line early enough, you might get some fresh seafood to go with those tasty New Mexico chile peppers.
To make matters more interesting, the shrimp have been locally raised, from near microscopic size to jumbos, on a diet based largely on cottonseed.
“We usually sell out in a few hours,” says Tracey Carrillo, owner of New Mexico Shrimp Company, and assistant director and senior program manager for the New Mexico State University Agricultural Experiment Station. In the latter capacity, Carrillo has more than 20 years of experience in cotton, and is currently working with a Cotton Incorporated research project examining potential for increasing the value of cottonseed.
Why not cottonseed as fish food? “Cottonseed has been of little value — about $ 300 a ton,” Carrillo says. “Most cottonseed from this area goes to dairies as crushed feed.”
Use in a more intensive animal feeding regimen, shrimp for instance, has been limited because of gossypol, a toxic material in cottonseed that has been the focus of various research efforts going back 30 or 40 years. “The time is right,” Carrillo says. Interest in aquaculture, as well as in other value-added uses for cottonseed, is a catalyst.