USSEC’s Southeast Asia (SEA) and Asia Subcontinent (ASC) regions teamed up to educate a team of 14 aquaculture entrepreneurs on hatchery and farm production technologies for new fish species. The focus was on a high value fish variety called the murrel, which fetches $4.50 – $ 7.00 per kilogram (whole fish), depending on the market region. This fish is easily farmed in China and SEA, but India lacks the technological knowledge to produce this fish.
USSEC Deputy Regional Director – ASC P.E Vijay Anand states that India’s aquaculture program has identified several constraints and one of them is lack of diversity in feed-consuming fish species. The mission was to convince Indian aquaculturists to adopt more feed-consuming species into their production systems. These new initiatives will demand more soy-based fish feeds. R. Umakanth, who manages USSSEC’s aquaculture program for the ASC, and Vo Hoang Nyugen, USSEC Technical Consultant, Aquaculture – Vietnam, implemented the mission under the guidance of USSEC Aquaculture Program Lead Technical Consultant – Sea Lukas Manomaitis.
The fourteen-member industry team was composed of six aquaculture integrators, four fish hatchery operators and four large fish farmers. About ten group members were graduates of professional fisheries capable of grasping new technologies promptly. The six integrators also run aquafeed businesses and hold 50 percent of the fish feed market share in India (300,000 metric tons (MT) /year).
The team went through a detailed technical overview on murrel production presented by Dr. Trinh Quoc Trong, director of the National Breeding Centre for Southern Freshwater Aquaculture. This was followed by a series of field visits to murrel hatcheries and farms. The team was able to witness consistent production, feed-based farming of murrels and their distribution systems into the local market. They had an opportunity to visit the National Breeding Centre for Southern Freshwater Aquaculture, whose main task was to apply new technologies in selective breeding, genetic manipulation, hybridization, and gene pool conservation for freshwater fish species. To help add value to knowledge on the entire value chain, the program also visited a feed mill that supplies feed for murrels, distribution systems for feed and markets where murrels are sold.
Mr. Umakanth shares that a month after returning from Vietnam, one of the participants was invited by a state fisheries department to educate more entrepreneurs on murrel farming. Three of the participants have started developing hatcheries for the species and the National Fisheries Development Board is now motivated to conduct induction programs for fisheries department personnel on murrel production. By establishing more new species, it is believed that more feed capacities and soy meal will be put to use in India.