Six months into production, business for North Las Vegas' Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp farm is hardly green around the gills.
The 30,000-square-foot, $5 million facility has had a healthy first shrimp harvest and equally robust first few months serving the Ganix Bio-Technologies company's organic, environmentally sustainable product in the local marketplace.
About 17 high-end restaurants on the Strip are serving the shrimp, and expansion is in store, said Frank DeLuca, vice president of sales and marketing.
Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp burst into retail venues this month, including Larry's Great Western Meats, 420 S. Valley View Blvd. This week, the shrimp is expected to be introduced for sale at eight local Albertsons grocery stores.
The company is fielding interest from vendors in California, Chicago and New York, DeLuca said.
"They have quite a few high-end restaurants," he said. "Las Vegas is unique because we put all ours on a 7-mile stretch of road."
Behind the scenes, Shere Andersen was named president and CEO in November, bringing management experience from Hallmark Cards and a company that specializes in workflow automation for Fortune 100 companies.
On Jan. 1, Ganix Bio-Technologies moved its local headquarters closer to the North Las Vegas facility.
Andersen said the move built a "culture of one team" for the almost 30 employees added when the facility opened in July. It also put buyers and shareholders closer to the action, she said.
The shrimp are grown and harvested in 44 ponds built from recycled shipping containers. Each harvest takes about four months, Andersen said, and the shrimp's waste is used to fertilize the algae that keep the saltwater system thriving. No water is discharged from the tanks, thus furthering the facility's "green" production line. The technology was developed by scientist Adrian Zettell.
Although production is at about a third of its capacity, Andersen said the facility has the potential to produce 9,000 to 10,000 pounds of antibiotic-, chemical-free shrimp.
The company is working to perfect distribution in a small window of time, DeLuca said.
"It's a fresh product. We can harvest and get it transported and in a restaurant within 24 hours of it being harvested," he said.
Part of DeLuca's job is to pound the pavement with the name of Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp Farm's unique brand, he said.
DeLuca meets with chefs and buyers regularly and encourages them to present head-on dishes, in which the crustacean's head is left on all the way to the plate.
"Selling and serving a shrimp head-on promotes the freshness and adds to the flavor intensity," DeLuca said.
DeLuca also hosts product seminars for restaurant servers so they can help make an educated sale of the shrimp.
He added that chefs have geared dishes for head-on shrimp. The dishes are popular among Asian customers, DeLuca said, because they're "familiar and used to getting a head-on product outside the U.S."
Feedback has been good, Andersen said.
"They love the taste and texture," she added. "They appreciate and value everything our product stands for. We have no negative impact on the environment."
The next stop is to build the brand's reputation among consumers.
Most are used to a frozen, wild-caught headless shrimp with artificial dyes changing its hue. Head-on shrimp will be a dining adventure, DeLuca said.
"Certainly it's a new experience to novice fine dining customers," DeLuca said. "It's a little weird to them, but it's no problem. My 8-year-old has no problem eating a head-on shrimp."
While business is bustling within facility walls, Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp farm's host city hopes it will attract attention and new business to North Las Vegas.
The plant is expected to bring about $16.3 million back into the city, with about $900,000 in property taxes and $180,000 in state sales tax within its first five years of business, Mayor Shari Buck said in July.
The facility is 30 miles north of the Strip in the Kapex area, which is ripe for development, Buck added.
In her 2011 State of the City address, the mayor touted the year's theme of "North Las Vegas: Open for Business." Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp was served at Buck's 2012 address Jan. 12 as a tangible result of that mission, Buck said.
Andersen said almost 30 people have been hired by the facility, and there are hopes to add more jobs.
Time will tell how the North Las Vegas economy fares, but DeLuca said the shrimp farm can be proud of its product.
"We're really building our name as the Kobe beef of shrimp," DeLuca said.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.