BALATON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar found Minnesota shrimp farming an exciting development when she met with Ralco Nutrition and tru Shrimp representatives Saturday in Balaton.

“I like the idea of (farming) shrimp,” Klobuchar said. “It’s good for people. It’s good protein. This is a positive thing for farmers.”

Klobuchar said that the farmers would benefit from the additional grain market since tru Shrimp has found a way to feed corn and soybeans to the developing seafood at every stage in their lives.

She also noted that the additional workforce would provide more economic stimuli for the area.

“It has (also) drawn plenty of great protein companies of the United States,” tru Shrimp Marketing Director, President and CEO Michael Ziebell said.

Ziebell said that a major retailer had called him about ordering tru Shrimp.

“They don’t normally call you,” Ziebell said.“Normally, you have to call them.”

Ziebell was Klobuchar’s video tour guide of the state of the art tidal basin and labs connected with the shrimp farm.

Klobuchar was impressed with all the built-in safety factors featured in the video.

“What we’re trying to do is produce a safe and abundant food supply,” Ziebell said. “We want to produce a stable and abundant supply of protein to feed the world.”

Noting that live tru Shrimp are blue in color, Klobuchar asked how they taste.

“They taste better,” Ziebell said, “because we don’t age them by leaving them in the sun.”

“Because of our system, the taste will be consistent from one to the next.”” Ralco owner and president emeritus Jon Knochenmus said.

The absence of pigment in the feed gives the shrimp the clear/blue effect. However, when you cook them, they do turn the white and pink you think of when you encounter cooked shrimp, Ralco Vice President of Marketing Glenn Bader said.

“There’s also differentiation at play,” Ziebell said. “We can track our shrimp. This is critical to the FDA and important to Sam’s Club buyers.”

Ziebell also told Klobuchar that tru Shrimp harvest methods produce 9 different sizes of shrimp and the shrimp are grown without antibiotics.

Additionally, Innotek of Willmar has built a prototype machine to behead the shrimp.

“The machine also pulls out the vein,” he said. “They also have one to take the shell off.”

Today, the U.S. is getting its shrimp from Southeast Asia, Michael Ziebell said. However, the shrimp from Thailand, which currently has the best shrimp farms, have about a 60 percent mortality rate.

Ziebell said only 11 million pounds of the market is produced by shrimp farms. The market is 1.6 billion pounds. In the future, through, tru Shrimp hopes to provide 16 million pounds within five years, he said.

Building a shrimp harbor in Luverne will also be a plus for the economy in southwest Minnesota. According to an economic impact study conducted by the University of Minnesota, construction of a single nine-acre shrimp harbor would contribute more than $48 million to the economy.

The shrimp farm would require 100,000 gallons of water per day, about a third of the requirement of a small ethanol plant.

This amount would serve both the human employees and the shrimp.

It also takes about 3,000 tons of grain to feed the shrimp.

With the addition of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, which started supplying water to Luverne in 2016, there would be an ample source of water for the harbor.

As Klobuchar was leaving to complete her tour of the area, she talked about how her focus this weekend was on helping Minnesota, and that she and other legislators were ready to get down to business on the budget debt ceiling and other legislative topics once she’s back in Washington, D.C.