The history of iAqua begins with Kenneth Morrison, an agribusiness leader who has been a major producer of agricultural and fishing products including potatoes, cotton, rice, sod, dairy, beef , and pork. During the 1960’s, Morrison produced alfalfa, an essential ingredient for virtually all animal feeds at the time. He developed advanced systems for alfalfa dehydration and pelleting, which he also applied to fishmeal production in Chile.
During one of Morrison’s trips to South America during the 1970’s, he observed the early development of shrimp farming in Ecuador. He decided to invest in a processing and farming company, and eventually expanded the operation to 2,000 ha of ponds. Using his broad experience in agriculture, he pioneered many early innovations in shrimp farming.
Morrison recognized the need to control the life cycle of shrimp, so he contracted France Aquaculture to build the first technological hatchery in Ecuador. He also built the first dedicated shrimp feed mill. To effectively distribute the feed to his 20-ha ponds, he used crop duster planes. To maximize the value of his products, Morrison processed them with cooking and brine freezing, and sold them in head-on form.
During the mid-1990’s, George Chamberlain collaborated with Morrison through his role as director of aquaculture for Ralston Purina International. Chamberlain warned Morrison of potential problems related to the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) moving through Asia, and Morrison sold his integrated shrimp operation in 1998.
In 1998, Chamberlain joined Monsanto, where he led a project to develop shrimp-breeding systems and soy-based feeds. When the project ended, Chamberlain joined Morrison undertaking a breeding program for P. monodon as part of an integrated production operation in Asia.
The two formed Black Tiger Aquaculture (BTA) in 1999. Although their 880-ha intensive shrimp farm in Malaysia had a history of failures due to WSSV, they turned things around, renovating the processing plant and adding a hatchery, diagnostic lab, quarantine facilities and broodstock ponds. They also developed in-house feed formulations.
BTA soon embarked on a comprehensive program for development of an SPF line of P. monodon. Donald Lightner, a pre-eminent authority on shrimp diseases, was contracted to assist in diagnostics. Chris Howell, an expert in breeding and hatchery management, was hired to manage the hatchery program. Using broodstock from Mozambique, increased hatchery and farm performance, and produced F2 breeding lines of SPF P. monodon.
BTA postlarvae soon gained a reputation of high performance and stimulated strong demand throughout Malaysia. In 2004, when Malaysia was not assigned tariffs in the U.S. shrimp antidumping action, it became an attractive farming location. The Black Tiger operation was sold to Grobest in September of that year.
Before selling BTA, Chamberlain, Morrison, Howell, and Lightner formed a technology company called Integrated Aquaculture International (later re-branded as iAqua) to provide health, breeding, and nutrition products and services to shrimp farms throughout the region.