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TransGenada Wins SBIR Grant for Shrimp Disease Project

Monday, July 8th, 2013

TransGenada is proud to announce that our project to create near immunized strains of L. vannamei  has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the federal government. The grant comes from The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a subsidiary of the USDA.  

The details can be read in this press release.

Apart from additional funding, this grant acts as an independent verification of the project’s methodology, key staff, and market impact. Over three hundred grant applications are submitted each year and only a few reach final approval. We are very pleased to have been selected and grateful to the government for making this opportunity available. We invite all those following TG to celebrate with us and we welcome feedback and are always open to collaborative opportunities.


Become a Buying Hero; Buy Food…Discrimantely

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I’ve long believed the are two very real ways for most of us without super powers to change the world, how we vote and how we spend our money. When I tell people this they usually get the voting part, but not the buying part. It’s not a matter buying more or less, but rather, realizing that what you choose to buy, Product A versus Product B, can make as much or probably more of a difference than any sort of political advocacy or any spandex-clad vigilante. In essence, if enough people “demand” differently, “supply” will ultimately follow suit. Today, I want to look specifically at how to do this with food, but from a novel angle. However, first let’s look at…

A few examples of Buying Heroes:

  • People that participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott became Civil Rights Buying Heroes
  • People that have bought electric vehicles or have installed solar panels have become Energy Buying Heroes
  • People that have chosen not to buy Nickelback CDs have become Rock ‘n’ Roll Heroes! Just kidding, but seriously…
  • People choosing to buy movies and music online, which saves all the resources that go into discs and packaging have become Waste Heroes!

With the examples I’ve used above, it’s pretty easy to see the good that was done in the conscious decision of what to buy or not to buy. But, when it comes to food, all the different food marketing campaigns and colorful labels telling us to buy healthy or buy delicious or buy all-natural or buy eco-friendly or buy humanitarian can make things really confusing for the average person. Of course, we want to eat healthy and environmentally friendly but how can someone see past all the marketing and know which foods are the best? While there isn’t one easy answer here, we can get at least some clarity by looking at a little bit of science. There has been some research done that compares different foods and what they take to produce versus what they yield in terms of nutrition. So for starters, look at this table which compares the carbon footprint of various meats:

Food Carbon Footprint
Beef 18 kg of CO²e/kg
Pork 14 kg of CO²e/kg
Chicken 8 kg of CO²e/kg
Trout 4.81 kg ofCO²e/kg

With this table (derived from research conducted by Technology Center of Miranda de Ebro) we can clearly see which foods cost the environmentally most by producing the higher amounts of carbon (also known as an externality). A similar study by The WorldFish Center drew substantiating conclusions, determining that “from an ecological efficiency and environmental impact perspective, [aquaculture has] clear benefits over other forms of animal source food production for human consumption.”

Along these lines, if you look at the feed conversion rates and protein conversion efficiency rates, you’ll see similar trends:

Food Feed Conversion
Beef 31.7 kg of feed/kg edible weight
Pork 10.7 kg of feed/kg edible weight
Chicken 4.2 kg of feed/kg edible weight
Carp 2.3 kg of feed/kg edible weight


Food Protein Conversion Efficiency
Beef 5%
Pork 13%
Chicken 25%
Carp 30%


Now, look at this table which shows the foods with the highest protein per ounce (Source):

Food Protein
Beef 7 grams of protein per oz
Pork 7.25 grams of protein per oz
Chicken 8.6 grams of protein per oz
Fish 6.28 grams of protein per oz

All meats are strong sources of protein, which is a major nutrition requirement for us, but from the protein and feed conversion charts we can see that more inputs, like feed, must go into beef and pork to get a similar amount of protein delivered to our dinner plate. Let’s now look at the amount of cholesterol per ounce….

Food Cholesterol
Beef 16.67-26.67 mg per oz
Pork 16.67-26.67 mg per oz
Chicken 20 mg per oz
Seafood 10-166.67 mg per oz

…and fat per ounce

Food Fat
Beef 2-5 grams per oz
Pork 2-5 grams per oz
Chicken 1-3 grams per oz
Seafood 1-3 grams per oz

Based on this research, beef and pork not only tend to cost the environment more, but they also tend to be the least healthy for our bodies. Chicken and seafood tend to be healthier and more environmentally friendly making them the most efficient foods for us to consume. Personally, I am becoming a food Buying Hero, putting my money, literally where my mouth is and choosing chicken and seafood more often and reserving beef and pork for special occasions. If enough of us do this, not only will we be healthier, will our environment be cleaner, but we’ll also be sending signals to production centers and increased production will make it more affordable too!

Additional Resources:

  1. An analysis of the technical options in agriculture for reducing greenhouse–gas emissions and increasing sinks
  2. An Overview of the current scientific knowledge on the implications for fisheries and aquaculture of climate change
  3. Preliminary Assessment of the Effects of Climate Change on Fisheries and Aquaculture in the Pacific
  4. Blue Frontiers: Managing the Environmental Costs of Aquaculture
  5. ‘Carbon footprint’, a tool for the sustainability of aquaculture
  6. Another study that shows carbon costs for a variety of seafood
  7. Economic article that shows salmon’s relative efficiency

Disney Does Aquaponics

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Shrimp shrimp within a Disney Aquarium with logoEveryone in the western world knows that Disney is the master of entertainment. Whether it’s the big screen or television, Broadway or theme parks, Disney keeps it’s audiences intrigued, engaged and coming back for more. What might surprise those that read on is the Walt Disney Company’s approach to green, sustainable research and practices that have been in place at the Walt Disney resort since 1982.

Tucked away on the right side of the future world area in EPCOT is “The Land” pavilion. Inside this large series of structures are several attractions designed to educate, present interactions, and research how we interact with our natural resources. Visitors can experience a flight through the wonders of California, get an animated fable from the characters of the Lion King, and most importantly, take a boat tour through the five environmentally controlled horticultural areas.

Yes, that’s right, Disney maintains a fully operational research and production greenhouse utilizing horticulture, aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponics. You can see all of the varying techniques employed by taking a small boat on a canal tour through an active greenhouse area that actual produces food served in the park. This presentation is 15 minutes of solid information and whets your appetite in many ways.

If you are like me and the boat ride is not enough, sign up for the “Behind the Seeds” tour. It is well worth the extra fee (under $20 per person) and the time away from the rest of the park. However, if you would choose to live vicariously through my recent tour, I will present it in the next blog post, “Behind the Seeds”.



Tuesday, July 17th, 2012


TransGenada Corporate Letterhead with Shrimp+DNA logoHaving achieved several milestones and receiving validation from a team of independent experts, Transgenada is now looking to identify a partner with an American-based hatchery in the development of advanced strains of SPF shrimp. “These shrimp will benefit from our biological fortification technology and gain practical immunity against specific pathogens that are an epidemic within shrimp aquaculture” Jeremy Ellis, Ph.D., the co-founder and CEO of TransGenada said. TransGenada is based out of Arizona (USA) that seeks to innovate aquaculture using the latest targeted biotechnology solutions. Founded in 2010, TransGenada has been conducting research, collecting requisite licenses, reagents, and materials to execute its plan. TransGenada is now poised to move into a prototype development phase and is looking for potential collaborators to help develop and assist in the distribution of their new and future brands of shrimp.

As they transition into this implementation phase, Dr. Ellis said they are looking ideally for a company that maintains “an active hatchery and brood stock system, that is located within the United States and that currently produces and internationally distributes L. vannamei SPF post-larvae.” TransGenada is looking to create a long term partnership if an ideal match can be made and would be interested in providing special incentives, including market exclusivity.

TransGenada knows its project has the potential to revolutionize shrimp aquaculture. Recent statements by independent experts from the USDA and the NIFA add credibility and support to the company’s direction. After reviewing TransGenada’s project, they agreed that it is, “very strong scientifically” and that it has the “technical merit and the potential to address a major problem for the industry” and that the “expertise is present to plan and execute the experiments and the technical infrastructure is in place to perform the experiments needed.”

If you or someone you know are interested please contact Andrew Ripley, TransGenada’s Marketing and Business Relations Manager. He may be reached at 909-542-8202 or via email More information about TransGenada may be found on their website,

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Science and Business, Out to Help You? A practical look at Antibiotics in Aquaculture|

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012
Young boy with green medical mask


I wanted to look at a recent news story that appears to cast aquaculture in a negative light.  Recently, researchers at the FDA found that some imported shrimp contained drug resistant bacteria, which is similar to findings in beef, pork, turkey and chicken that have been problematic for these industries as well.  But before I go any further, I wanted to provide some context for people who are unfamiliar with this issue so they can understand why this is disconcerting.


Background Explanation

Animals, including those grown on a farm, can get sick. If they get ill, for hygiene reasons we really should not eat them, thus they should not be sold in the market. Some modern farmers preemptively give their animals drugs, like antibiotics, to keep them healthy and thus marketable even if they are not already sick. This helps us by keeping our food plentiful, high in protein and also low in cost. However, this can also hurt us because there are very real human health concerns that may result from this.

First, we must understand that when people get diseased doctors will sometimes prescribe antibiotic drugs. In general, the more antibiotics are used, then the less effective they become as the bacteria can and do adapt to resist them. So what we’ve found to be problematic is that if we eat food that has been treated with antibiotics then these antibiotics lose their potency and no longer are as effective when we need them. Not only that, if we don’t conserve our usage of these antibiotics, the bacteria we’re trying ward off will have greater opportunity to adapt and in the long term could make them immune to our drugs. And if a new strain of deadly bacteria gets loose in our densely populated cities we could be in the middle of a juggernaut of an outbreak. (For more related to this, check out our recent video on population growth concerns.)

Given this context it’s easy to see how people can quickly blame agribusiness for exploiting medical technology in the name of higher profit margins and favorable quarterly prospectives. But the issue is more complicated than that.

Why can’t we just tell agribusiness to stop?

The problem is not that we can’t tell them, because we already have. The problem is that we also tell them emphatically to continue!

Our laws and FDA regulations, tell agribusiness what is and what is not acceptable means to keep their livestock healthy. However, our buying behavior tells them to cut costs and bring food to market cheaply. What this creates is a situation where business must make a loose-loose choice. The must either choose to be compliant, which in a nutshell may mean they’re less profitable (be it because their animal’s survival rate drops or because they have to invest in more expensive prevention technologies, etc), or to varying degrees be non-compliant, garner higher profits but at the risk of legal repurcusions (which, again would lead to loss of profits). Different businesses will react differently. This phenomenon is further complicated by the fact that many of the major producers in aquaculture, specifically, are overseas and have less oversight.


What is the solution, then?

I’m sure there are people that think we should create stronger regulations and enforce harsher penalties, like trade embargoes. However, we have to be judicious with our edicts. If we are too harsh we can stifle aquaculture to the point where it doesn’t grow as fast as we need it to to keep up with our growing global population.  Others say we must learn to sacrafice and be willing to pay more for food. While I think we all as individuals may be amenable to this, I don’t think our societies as a whole would be unless there was some large crises that got everyone’s attention first.

On the other hand, I know of another solution because TransGenada is working on it! We are working to create a win-win choice for shrimp farmers dealing with disease, viruses, and dying shrimp.  And we are not alone! Just this last week or head scientist, Dr. Jeremy Ellis attended a seminar where he learned of new ways scientists have developed to help control a deadly infection caused by Vibrio bacteria. More to come later…

TransGenada Invades YouTube! New Video Series to discuss Aquaculture and Science!

Friday, June 1st, 2012

In this video, Dr. Jeremy Ellis is interviewed by Andrew Ripley about human population growth and how aquaculture may be one of the keys for us to be able to feed our growing numbers as well as some of the general problems that aquaculture is currently faces and what science can do to help. Please check it out and please give us your feedback, either here or in YouTube.

Also, we’re pleased with the way this came out and are looking into doing a series of these types of videos. We’d like to invite guests from the aquaculture community to participate. Please contact us if you are interested.

Bill Gates, of IT Renown, says Biotechnology is Critical to our Survival

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

In his annual letter for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Microsoft founder and Foundation co-chair, explained how he believes biotechnology holds the key for the survival of our society. This piqued my interest knowing that Bill Gates made his vast fortune growing and cultivating the IT industry.  He emphasized a couple points in the letter that really hit home for us at TransGenada:

  1. Population growth over the last couple centuries has exploded.
  2. Using biotech to innovate how we grow food is a key contributing technology for our long term survival.
  3. Fiscal support for this research isn’t enough.

For anyone who attended our Official Unveiling Event, points 1-3 should sound very familiar. In our presentation, we looked at a couple graphs showing the human population — how it rises and falls after periods of technological innovation and outbreak (respectively) and specifically we looked at how over the last 200 years, our population skyrocketed from one to seven billion people. The next graph shows our projected population growth in the next thirty years with an expected two billion additional people(see the image below). We also examined some of the ways our scientific research can be used for real world solutions. Already there are companies creating crops that are drought resistant or salmon that grow twice as fast!

Human Population Growth - Graph shows Recent and Projected population growth Data

Human Population Growth - Recent and Projected Data

The final point, Mr. Gates talks about, is one that I’d like to look at a bit more closely. Consider the fact that Gates at his core is an entrepreneur and his foundation is a humanitarian effort that has spent over $2 billion dollars fighting poverty and world hunger. Considering this and as someone rooted in business but with a big heart, I love that he isn’t asking for simple donations–no! He’s asking for a different sort of commitment. One that is both self-serving and meanwhile humanitarian.

Just the idea of this gives me chills. For so much of my life I’ve questioned how effective our hunger relief efforts have been. But now, that beauty-pageant-want-to-help-world-hunger pipe-dream isn’t as unobtainable in my mind. Thanks Mr. Gates.  I think it’s fair to say we see eye-to-eye.

For anyone interested in looking at a summary, I liked Logan Hawkes’ take on Gates’ letter on The Western Farm Press’ website.

Aquatic “Crop Rotation” in Shrimp Farming

Friday, January 27th, 2012

As the grandson of Ohio farmers, I grew up occasionally overhearing–and sometimes learning–about the business of agriculture. I can still recall conversations between my grandparents discussing the previous season’s surpluses or shortages and how this would effect their choice of which crops to grow in following seasons. But little did I expect decades later to find such an uncanny parallel between their agriculture and the aquaculture TransGenada will support. When I learned about shrimp farmers in the Ben Tre province of Vietnam and how they utilized their own type of “crop rotation” my curiosity was piqued.

As detailed in the September/October 2011 Edition of Aqua Culture Asia Pacific magazine, these shrimp farmers seasonally rotate the species of shrimp they stock. One farmer details how he stocks giant tiger shrimp (P. monodon) for the first two thirds of the season and then Pacific White Shrimp (L. vannamei) during the remaining 75 days of the season. He explains that he knows the chances of a Whitespot (WSSV) outbreak increase from about 20-30% early on in the season in April to about 70-80% later in the season in September and during the dry season (December through February). In fact, the chances for disease are so probable that the authorities have made it illegal for farmers to grow shrimp and for hatcheries to produce postlarvae during the dry season.

What I wasn’t able to discern exactly is why they rotate their types of shrimp like this. Agriculture farmers have several reasons for this ranging from increasing the quality of their soil to helping prevent crop-specific pests from feeling like they’ve found a good consistent field to retire to. But why do the aquaculture farmers of Ben Tre rotate species? My original belief was this was implemented because L. vannamei were less susceptible than P. monodon to WSSV. This made sense afterall because I knew after L. vannamei became more popular after large WSSV and TSV outbreaks. But, I also know WSSV does indeed impact L. vannamei, so perhaps there is another reason, like L. Vannamei have some characteristic, like being cheaper or faster to grow, that naturally makes them more advantageous to grow as farmers approach the end of their season. Or, as is often the way of things, I wondered if there was perhaps a combination of reasons why shrimp farmers would rotate their species of shrimp. I decided to ask TransGenada’s chief scientist, Dr. Jeremy Ellis and what he shared with me was very insightful. He said, “There are a variety of forces that could dictate when crop rotation is an advantageous strategy.  Market preference and prices in some regions make P. monodon a more attractive crop, while L. vannamei has been selected for disease resistance for many years.  By splitting time between these two they are tapping into the strengths of each species.”

While I know farmers, both agriculturists and aquaculturists, are always aware of the impact of disease, I hope sharing this example will help outsiders realize the depth this problem poses for the pressures farmers face. The industry plays a constant game of tug of war. On the one hand we are pushed annually for greater production to supply an ever-growing populace and to compensate for less and less abundant natural resources. But, on the other hand, they have to take steps like the ones mentioned in this post to keep from being pulled back by outbreaks and the like. Just today I was reading about how China, Japan and South Korea’s demand for Vietnamese shrimp is expected to increase this year (despite last year’s 13.7% increase) and about how Sonora, Mexico’s production was halved from 90,000 tonnes to 41,000 tonnes due to WSSV. TransGenada aims to innovate aquaculture and provide better solutions for its farmers and in so doing for our future generations’ welfare. A goal I’m certain my grandparents could appreciate.

The Shrimp Immune System

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

The immune system of crustaceans has become and area of increasing interest for the aquaculture community.  It has been long known that crustaceans, and also arthropods in general, may often harbor pathogenic infections without displaying overt signs of disease.  This fact has been partly responsible for the widespread increase in the adoption of advanced pathogen detection in broodstock in addition to the rapid application of SPF (specific pathogen free) stocks where feasible.  These and related technologies have allowed some level of control of disease in shrimp aquaculture and has undoubtedly resulted in a reduction of catastrophic losses and regional pandemics.  However, the fact remains that even these populations of cultured shrimp are still susceptible to disease.  Facilities near wild populations, that have open circulation systems, or are in close geographic proximity to other shrimp farming facilities have increased risk of disease.

Closed, recirculating, or in-land facilities are often considered the next best method to control the introduction of pathogens; however, when/if an outbreak occurs it is often more catestrophic as the experience and technology to deal with the disease and a lack of natural resistance of the shrimp stocks results in a highly susceptible environment.  Here in, enters the current research into the shrimp immune system.  By studying how the immune system functions in arthropods, or shrimp specifically, molecular interventions may be engineered to block or alter the transmission or virulence of viruses and other pathogens.

A central feature of innate immunity in a wide range of animal species is the Toll-receptor family.  These receptors detect conserved structures found in a wide range of viral and bacterial pathogens.  Once the receptors detect a hint of invading pathogens further immune responses follow.  These receptors were long suspected to be present in shrimp as well and a 2007 report confirmed the existence of Toll-receptors in shrimp, ultimately culminating with the cloning of LvToll1 [1].   More recently two additional receptors, LvToll2 and LvToll3, have been discovered as outlined Developmental & Comparative Immunology [2].  In this paper the authors observed the levels of the various Toll receptors responded distinctly different to different pathogenic agents.  This is not entirely unexpected as other organisms show a similar “combinatorial code” in response to pathogens.

A case in point to help demonstrate the utility of this research is how viruses display tissue specific tropism (simply, which tissues viruses preferentially target).  You need look no further than your own experiences with the common cold and flu viruses.  These viruses target various tissues (mucosal membranes, digestive system, etc), while leaving others (skin, muscles, etc) generally untouched.  Viruses often require specific sets of proteins to be present on a cell to allow for successful invasion.  This selection criteria for tropism is partly what allows viruses to adapt increased virulence properties and efficient transmission strategies.

Just as we see tropism with the cold virus in humans, studies of IMNV in L. vannamei have identified a similar phenomenon.  IMNV is found by quantitative measure to be enriched in the muscle and hemolymph, while being reduced in more peripheral tissues [3].  In light of the Toll receptor research it is clear that some components of the shrimp innate immune system display varying levels of expression in different tissues.  Furthermore, it may be possible that the “natural” pattern of toll gene expression or other innate immune system genes is not sufficient to provide an effective defense against the virus.  In a sense IMNV might have found a “hole” and is exploiting it.  Therefore, in the specific case of IMNV, modulating the expression of some of the toll pathway genes in the muscle may confer additional resistance to IMNV.

By understanding how these receptors respond to infections it could be possible to identify these “holes” that pathogens exploit.  Just like a software patch fixes a vulnerability in a computer operating system, it may be possible to “patch” these organisms to help their immune system more completely fend off viruses and bacteria.  One of TransGenada’s main charges is to identify these exploits and upgrade our shrimp for the betterment of the industry.

For those interested in additional information the following link has more details on the basics of the Toll mediated innate immunity [4].

Great Success: TransGenada’s Official Unveiling Event!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

TransGenada would like to thank all of our attendees and stream viewers for making our Official Unveiling Event a great success! With over 40 in attendance at Sky Song and virtually via the event far exceeded our expectations! Getting feedback was particularly helpful and we wanted to thank all everyone that asked questions and shared their wisdom!

For anyone that may have missed the presentation, it will be available here  using the provided access code.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

Here are some pictures from the event:

Dr. Jeremy Ellis, Ph.D. Speaking at ASU Skysong

Jeremy Ellis, Ph.D.

TransGenada Unveiling Event Attendees|Full conference room with smiling people

A few of the Unveiling Event Attendees

Andrew Ripley at TransGenada's official Unveiling Event|Mic Check

Sound Check #4, we are live!

Dr. Jeremy Ellis of TransGenada showing a slide of a giant-sized shrimp

Dr. Ellis, talking about what TransGenada won't be doing...

Andrew Ripley of TransGenada showing a slide of TransGenada's inception

Andrew Ripley talking about the origins of TransGenada

James D. Ripley toasting to TransGenada's beginning|Man in yellow shirt with champagne

A toast to TransGenada! All great journeys have a great beginning!