- Associated Press - Monday, August 18, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - From the outside of this vacant Detroit house with a leaning porch, peeled façade and weedy yard, only the locked metal fence might hint at something living - swimming - inside.

Shrimp. Bunches of them.

To Elizabeth (Lizzie) Grobbel, these couple hundred crustaceans represent what might one day be a sustainable, local aquaculture that ends up in skillets or on grills throughout the city, the Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/1op6mHw ) reported.

Think community garden, but with a product that’s just delicious in a garlic sauce.

“How are you guys?” said Grobbel, 23, on Wednesday, greeting the tiny creatures darting and jumping in nine tanks of saltwater. Net in hand, she crouched in the semi darkness of the basement, peering through greenish liquid.

A master’s student of environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, Grobbel had been asked to continue research assessing the sustainability of domestic shrimp farming. She wanted to make it useful to a city with an overwhelming load of vacant homes and a lack of year-round, nutritious, locally grown food.

So she’s trying to grow shrimp - to see how difficult it is and to map out a plan for others.

That’s the challenge for the Graham Sustainability Institute at U-M - moving knowledge that’s usually locked up in labs and academic literature to the outside world.

“What we want to do is transfer that knowledge and create a transformative learning experience for our students,” said Andrew Horning, deputy director at the institute.

Grobbel, he said, “is a shining example.”

She also knew of a classmate with an extra house and a basement.

So Grobbel toils these days amid the clutter of old furniture. Plastic containers and pipettes and equipment that monitor the water quality of the tanks sit on a dining room table now repurposed as a lab bench on the first floor.

“My whole goal is to make accessible this sustainable, locally produced food,” she said. With clumps of vacant homes that are destined for a wrecking ball, the shrimp idea gives neighbors a reason to save them and to work together, she added.

She chuckles when asked about reactions. “Usually, I get, ‘You’re doing what, where?’ “

She’ll raise the shrimp until this fall and then offer samples to the community.

She said shrimp fans should be able to taste the difference between the product that is flash-frozen, then shipped across oceans to get to Detroit versus the shrimp that is “direct to the consumer, fresh out of the tank.”

Grobbel has already made an impact, Horning said. “I think whether it’s shrimp or anything else, what she’s showing is that you can take ingenuity and solve some really interesting problems while addressing the environmental, social and economic impact.”

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com


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