Semi-intensive pond farming

The majority of shrimp farming takes place in the north-east area at the Atlantic Ocean and Amazon Delta. The State of Ceará is the main producer, accounting for almost 50% of the total production (42,000 tonnes), and is followed by the State of Rio Grande do Norte. The majority of all Brazilian shrimp farmers use the semi-intensive farming with in total about 18,500 ha in 2009. However, in the north-eastern part of Brazil thousands of hectares designated for future shrimps farming, which proves Brazil’s intention to grow fast in this sector. Nevertheless, governmental changes and financial crises lowered the rhythm of growth considerably. There were quite some farming problems in the past and farmers are scared to make big investments. At the moment there appears to be no hurry to implement intensive farming. However, it is expected that Brazil will also change slowly towards intensive farming as Ecuador and Perú.

Key features
Average stocking density

20 – 70 PL/m2

Average productivity

3,500 kg/ha/year

# of crops per year


# of days per crop

About 150 days

Harvesting season

All year round

Type of farmer

About 3 big scale farmers with more than 500 ha, about 200 medium scale farmers with more than 100 ha, and about 1000 small scale farmers with less than 100 ha.

Potential risks
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Water pollution
  • Entry of diseases
  • Salinization

Type of farmers

The north-eastern part of Brazil is responsible for 98% of the national production, which reached 90.000 tonnes  in 2016.  Around 50% (42.000 tonnes) of all production comes from the State of Ceará, followed by the State of Rio Grande do Norte. Most of the farms are close to the Atlantic Ocean or in the Amazon Delta with optimal climate and natural resources. There are some small-scale farmers in the southern states of Santa Catarina and Paraná. There are about 1,200 farmers that operate an area of 18,500 ha. The majority are small scale farmers with less than 10 ha. Grupo Fernandes Vieira, Camanor Lda. and Potiporá are companies with an integrated structure, owning more than 500 ha each. These three companies are responsible for more than 60% of all Brazilian production of vannamei, and also own processing plants.

There is no direct association between the farmers as confidence and mutual reliability in Brazil is very difficult. However, due to the limited amount of production plants, lots of smaller and even medium size farmers process their shrimp in the plants of the bigger farmers and in some public facilities. Sometimes they even use the production plants of fishing companies like Pesqueira Pioneira

Production and harvesting system

Brazilian shrimp farmers use monoculture. Sometimes they have some tilapia or paiche in separated small ponds but not for export purposes. Farmers close to the Atlantic Ocean use sea water. At high tide, water is filtered and led into the pond and at low tide the water is discharged. Farmers in the Amazon Delta use the water with low salinity of the bigger rivers. Average pond size is quite big; 10 ha is common.

After harvesting, the pond is emptied, cleaned, disinfected and filled again. This process takes about one week. The water is being renewed continuously and during the production phase they use aeration and probiotics. Total grow time is about 150 days including hatchery/nursery (about 30-40 days). Farmers aim at HOSO sizes of 50-60 and 60-70 although even smaller sizes are quite common. and the main HOSO sizes are 50-60, 60-70 and onwards. Survival rate from hatchery to grow-out is approximately 50%; survival rates in the hatchery being 65%, in the nursery 90% and grow-out in the pond after the nursery stage 90%.

At harvest time, the pond is being emptied forcing the shrimp to go to a gate at which end they are trapped, caught by hand in plastic cubes and put in a big plastic container with water and ice. The bigger farms harvest mechanically: at the gate there is a kind of leverage machine which brings the shrimps on shore gently and quickly.

Stocking densities and productivity

With the semi-intensive system, farmers use a PL/m2 of about 20-70 reaching an annual production of 3,500 kg per ha. Normally stocking is done manually although some companies use an aired tube system. In Brazil, the stocking, harvesting and trading is done year-round.

Use of seed, feed and other inputs

In 2013 there were 18 professional hatcheries in Brazil. In big circular tanks of about 20,000 liters, there are between 80 and 100 mature shrimps, 50% male, 50% half female. These tanks are controlled on light and temperature and aerated continuously. The shrimps get feed 6 times per day and 10-12% of the female shrimps have eggs each day. These shrimps are being selected and brought to separated ‘de-egging’ tanks. After 5 to 6 hours, the eggs are being removed, cleaned, treated against bacteria’s and diseases and stocked in big plastic boxes with constant aeration. Afterwards hatching, the larvae are put in incubators.

The larvae stay in the incubator for about 18-20 days during which they are constantly controlled on temperature, oxygen levels, ammoniac, nitrite, pH, etc. In the last stage, the larvae are fed with microalgae, Artemia salina and micro pellets. At the end of this stage, they are being conditioned in plastic bags or polystyrene boxes with water, oxygen and Artemia salina, and transported by truck or air to the farms. After arrival at the farms, the larvae are put in nursery tanks in order to adapt to the local circumstances like temperature and water conditions. Next stage is the grow-out.

During farming, they use pellets (fish meal, grains, etc) from 7 national companies like Aquatech and Nicovita and international suppliers like Purina. Some companies use a fixed feeding mechanism (a floating stone with a net beneath it in which the farmer deposit the feed) while others just throw the feed by hand. Feed conversion ratio is around 1,300-1,500 kg per 1000 kg of shrimp. Probiotics are used during all stages.


In the north-eastern provinces of Brazil (State of Ceará and State of Rio Grande do Norte) the farmers can harvest all year-round due to the stable climate and sufficient water resources. There is a raining season but this doesn’t affect the farming.