Sunshine State’s Sun Shrimp Saved From Hurricane Ian
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Pine Island, Fla. is home to a unique full-cycle shrimp operation run by Robin Pearl and his team. An onsite genetics lab helps the team breed and raise some of the world’s most sought-after brood stock; strong male and female shrimp that spawn generations of delicious offspring. In October 2022, Hurricane Ian brought an extraordinary set of challenges, and it took extraordinary energy to weather the storm.
The tanks that nurture the developing breeder shrimp must be kept at a precise temperature to keep them alive. As the whole island lost power when Ian barreled through, propane-powered generators kicked in. Pearl used to rely on diesel generators but switched to propane for reliability. “Propane will never go bad,” Pearl says.
But there was another problem: the storm washed out the only bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Pearl and his workers caught rides on boats to survey the damage and figure out what to do next. When he arrived, Pearl was greeted by the hum of generators and knew his prized penaeidae were safe for the moment. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough propane tank capacity to power the entire operation for an extended time. “We decided to focus on powering the chillers that keep the genetic stock alive,” says Pearl. Many of the farm’s other shrimp did not survive.
Eventually, the farm’s propane provider, Blossman Gas, was able to secure a ride to the island for one of its bobtail trucks on a barge, bringing enough propane to keep the chillers running. Pearl says, “Blossman deserves a special shoutout. They stepped up in a major way.”
Pearl’s family of companies, which include Sun Shrimp and American Mariculture, survived two weeks before the electric grid came back online. Another shorter outage struck when Tropical Storm Nicole passed through in November. With the help of propane, the operation endured through the crucial November to January harvest season. As a new year dawned, Pearl’s shrimp were packed onto ships and delivered to shrimp farms around the world.
Asked what ultimately saved his operation, Pearl answers “preparation, experience, and people with a can-do spirit.”
That kind of extraordinary resiliency is what makes propane the Energy for Everyone.