Aquaculture North America

Controversial nanotechnology focusses on shrimp health

September 18, 2015
By Erich Luening

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced earlier this year USD $3.8 million grant funding to support nanotech research in food security, nutrition, safety and environmental protection. Nanotechnology or “nanotech” is the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale.

Backed by government funds, researchers at the University of Wisconsin are working to develop nanotechnology that will protect farmed shrimp from disease.

            The university was awarded $450,000 to tailor polyanhydride nanoparticles to encapsulate and release antibiotics to protect shrimp against bacterial pathogens.

            Ultimately, the project will create a product that provides a strong level of protection with minimum dose, is environmentally stable and safe, and can be rapidly adapted to respond to evolving and emerging infectious disease issues in aquaculture, according to the grant announcement.


            The awards were made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

            The use of nanotechnology in food processes is controversial in some circles as critics argue the US government has failed to regulate the use of nanotech in food products – unlike governments in Europe and Canada where the first steps in limiting such use have been made.

            Nano-materials can occur naturally, for example in volcanic ash and ocean spray, and may also be incidental byproducts of human activity, such as homogenization or milling. They can also be produced intentionally with specific properties through certain chemical or physical processes.

            According to sources, intentionally created nano-materials have been researched and used for applications in the US food supply for about a decade.

— Erich Luening

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