Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shrimp Farming in China

Shrimp Farming in China
Shrimp News Interviews Leland Lai
On November 13, 2008, I interviewed Leland Lai, co-director with Bud Insalata of
Aquafauna Bio-Marine, which, for the past 32 years, has been marketing enrichment,
rotifer culture, maturation and larval diets to shrimp hatcheries worldwide. Based in
Southern California (USA), Aquafauna also designs and equips aquatic hatcheries with
everything they need from water intakes and well screens to heating, filtration, pumping
and aeration systems.
Lai just returned from a two-week stay in China,
where he attended two international conferences:
the China Seafood and Fisheries/Aquaculture
Expo, the largest expo for nutrition and seafood
in China; and Goal 2008, sponsored by the
Global Aquaculture Alliance. The statistics and
production figures that you will see below are
Lai’s best estimates, based on information from
the conferences and other contacts in China.
Shrimp News: How much of your business is
with the world’s shrimp farming industry?
Leland Lai: Probably, about 75%. The balance
is with finfish and design work for hatchery
systems.Shrimp News: Why have you spent so much
time in China over the last couple of years?
Leland Lai: China produces two-thirds of the
world’s aquaculture tonnage. It has tens of
thousands of aquatic hatcheries. That’s our
market. You go where the action is, and right
now, for us, it’s in China. We have offices in
Qingdao, a city in northeast China that’s surrounded by six or seven major universities
and aquatic research institutions. Fifty to sixty percent of China’s noted aquaculture
scientists are in the city of Qingdao, and Qingdao Province is probably the country’s most
prolific aquaculture province. We draw heavily on all these resources during the
development of our products. Most of China’s production is from freshwater aquaculture,
but there are plenty of developments on the marine side, too. Wherever you go in the
north, you see fish, mollusk and coolwater shrimp farming (Penaeus chinensis).
Shrimp News: Do you have a partner in China?
Leland Lai: Yes, Qingdao Samuels Industrial and Commercial Company, Ltd. We have a
joint partnership with them to do distribution and to develop products for the Chinese
Shrimp News: What do you think your biggest products for shrimp hatcheries will be?
Leland Lai: We can’t compete with the run-of-the-mill shrimp hatchery diets in China.
They’re based on inexpensive labor and local ingredients. What they lack in quality, they
make up for in volume and low prices.
We are targeting the enrichment diets used for rotifers and Artemia in finfish culture. To
support the growth of aquaculture in China, we are also looking at the market for fish
meal and fish oil replacements used in the production of aquafeeds. Such replacement
diets will be for finfish and shrimp with the inclusion of the essential fatty acids that enable
wider use of sustainable terrestrial plant and animal substitutes for the fish meals and
oils. Fishmeal is currently used to provide proteins while the fish oils provide the energy
source and essential fatty acids needed for growth, survival and certain taste/texture
qualities. The essential fatty acids we use are sustainably produced using biofermentation
technology and grown without light. This source of fatty acids also reduces
the amount of contaminants found in wild sourced meals and oils. Solve some of these
fishmeal and fish oil supply issues in China (the low cost producer) and you make a big
dent in solving the same supply problems in the rest of the world.
Shrimp News: How do shrimp hatcheries in China differ from those in the Western
Hemisphere and the rest of the world?
Leland Lai: There’s a wide spectrum of hatcheries, from small mom-and-pops to large
integrated operations, but, like Vietnam, the nature of small-scale hatcheriesIt’s probably happening even more quickly in China than in Vietnam. It’s a
good thing because the large hatcheries improve production efficiencies. They use the
latest technology, science-based feeds and specific pathogen free broodstock. Since it’s
too expensive for the Chinese to import ingredients from the West, they generally make
their hatchery feeds from domestic ingredients—and the quality is all over the place.
Shrimp News: Did you see anything new in shrimp growout technology?
Leland Lai: We’re seeing more and more lined ponds. Most of them are small, intensive
and use aeration equipment. They look a lot like the ponds that developed in Taiwan in
the late 1980s. In fact, much of the shrimp farming technology in southern China was
transplanted from Taiwan.
Shrimp News: While you were in China, did you hear any production figures on farmed
Leland Lai: Yes, “officially”
China is producing about
700,000 metric tons of
farmed shrimp a year, but
people I spoke with in the
north, in the south and in
academia and government
said production was
probably much higher than
that, probably over a million
metric tons a year. Not as much Penaeus monodon is being grown in China, but large
quantities of P. chinensis are still being grown in northern China. Generally, farmers in
northern China produce one crop of large shrimp a year. In southern China, it’s mostly P.
vannamei, and two or more crops a year.
Shrimp News: How many aquatic feed mills are there in China?
Leland Lai: Probably 1,500, or so, some big, some small. Up north, they’re mostly for
fish; down south, they’re mostly for shrimp. Some are national, some just work within one
province, but they’re all in the private sector. The government doesn’t own the feed mills
in China. Most of the feeds are based on monodon formulations, even though they are
used to feed vannamei. This means lots of fat and protein, so it’s not uncommon to see
feeds with 40% protein and three, or more, percent fat. In the West, vannamei farmers
drop protein levels down to 25% to 35% and fat levels closer to 1%.
Shrimp News: What are the key diseases and what methods are being implemented tocombat them?
Leland Lai: Key diseases include whitespot, Taura and hepatopancreatic parvovirus
disease. Farmers and hatcheries fight diseases by selecting high-quality seed and feed,
cutting off the disease at its source, keeping water quality high and sterilizing everything
that can be sterilized. Limiting pond water exchange is also a recently implemented
Shrimp News: Of total farmed production, what percent stays in China for domestic
consumption and what percent is exported?
Leland Lai: About 20% of total production is exported; 80% is consumed domestically!
Shrimp News: Are there standards that prohibit the use of antibiotics on shrimp farms?
Who tests the finished product?
Leland Lai: Yes, there are standards that prohibit the use of antibiotics on shrimp farms.
They are enforced by national and local fishery authorities. The best enforcement,
however, is the rejection of shipments that test positive for antibiotics by foreign
importers. This immediately affects the Chinese exporter/processor and the “word” quite
rapidly trickles down to the farm level that shrimp with detectable levels of antibiotics may
be rejected by the local processor.
Shrimp News: Are greenhouses being used for shrimp farming in China?
Leland Lai: Not in the south because it’s warm most of the year. Up north, some
hatcheries get a jump on the season by head-starting postlarvae in greenhouses.
Shrimp News: How about aeration.
Leland Lai: It’s mostly paddlewheels in intensive ponds, basically the same intensive
technology that evolved in Taiwan. Up north, it’s not nearly as intensive—no aeration,
large ponds and daily water exchange.
In the south, for the most part, farmers use small, lined ponds (less than a hectare). The
large integrated farms produce mostly what the export market wants right now. They set
future delivery prices and take orders in advance. They look at their order books to
determine when to stock and harvest. They know their cost of production before they
start. How else could they reliably establish “contract” growing?
Shrimp News: What do they do with the heads from processed shrimp in China?
Leland Lai: Sometimes they’re processed into fish, shrimp, or other animal feeds. It
would seem to be a large breach in biosecurity to use shrimp heads in the manufacturing
of shrimp feed, however, they’re commonly incorporated in many formulations.Shrimp News: Did you pick up any information on freshwater prawn farming?
Leland Lai: Yes, there’s lots of prawn farming occurring in China, but it’s difficult to
determine the amount because the statistics on vannamei farming in freshwater and
freshwater prawn farming (Macrobrachium species) often get mixed together.
Shrimp News: Did you see or hear anything about lobster or crab farming in China?
Leland Lai: Not much about lobster farming, but the crab farming industry is quite large.
It’s mostly in freshwater with the hairy crab, named for the hairs on its appendages. A lot
of blue crab is grown in marine and brackish water ponds, mostly as a byproduct to some
other cultured species.
Shrimp News: Earlier you mentioned that you would be offering fish meal and fish oil
replacements to feed companies in China. Tell me a little about that.
Leland Lai: China consumes almost half the world’s supply of fish meal and fish oil. We
are testing essential fatty acids that enable wider use of terrestrial plant and animal
protein/oils as replacements for fishmeal and fish oils. Government, academia and the
private sector have been very responsive to what we’re doing, not only for cost and supply
reasons, but also for long-term sustainability reasons. If China produces a million metric
tons of farmed shrimp a year, it’s probably producing at least two million tons of shrimp
feed. We want to replace some of the fish meal and fish oil in those feeds with
sustainable proteins and oils. The key here is the essential fatty acids that terrestrial
proteins and oils are lacking.
Shrimp News: What’s the consumer shrimp market like in China?
Leland Lai: The size of the middle class is about a quarter of a billion people. Seafood
has been a popular menu item in China for centuries. Now that shrimp is readily available
at relatively moderate prices, China has become one of the major shrimp consuming
nations in the world, right up there with Japan, Europe and the United States!
Information: Leland Lai, Director, Aquafauna
Bio-Marine, Inc., P.O. Box 5, Hawthorne,
California 90250 USA (phone 310-973-5275, fax
310-676-9387, email,
Source: Leland Lai. Telephone interview by
Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International.
November 13, 2008.

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