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FORMER PHD students from University College London are putting their biomechanical engineering skills to use in Haringey, growing warm water prawns in a super-intensive aquaculture farm.

Leonardo Rios, Homam Bahrani and Pat Morris decided their knowledge of biomechanics, coupled with their love of warm water prawns, could support a viable business venture.

They pitched their idea for Marizca to London investment company Student Upstarts, who invested £15,000 in their idea.

Leonardo, who is the CEO of Marizca, said: “The technology comprises of square layered trays, each utilising a minimum volume of water. There is also a new filtration system that uses a solid carbon source such as starch. This makes bacteria grow fast and can act as a food source for the prawns.”

The warm water prawns the trio will be growing are usually imported from South Asia or South America. Their research showed that retailers and consumers were attracted to sourcing locally produced, sustainable prawns in London.

Homam, who is the COO of Marizca, said: “In about six months we should be ready to sell our first batch of prawns. We calculated that one of our units will produce 400kg of prawn a year, and we’ve spoken to retailers who are willing to pay £18 to 20 per kilogram. We’ve built one unit, but we will have four in total, so it has a lot of potential.

“We can give the living prawns to retailers, not frozen – they can see it’s freshly produced; it’s locally sourced here in the UK. I think it’s really good for the economy here.”

Traditionally in prawn farming the crustaceans are grown at the bottom of very large ponds. Leo has been growing shrimp throughout his life as a hobby in Mexico, and Pat has relatives in Thailand who have a shrimp farm.

Homam added: “We moved into our new warehouse recently in Seaford Road. We’ll be trialling our produce with local retailers – we’ve had a lot of local seafood retailers tell us they are willing to take 5kgs of our product and put it on their shelves to trial it.”

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