Aquaculture

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Feed: From bacteria to plate

Food safety, health and disease issues caused by cheap feed and pollution and other environmental challenges have been part of aquaculture since its commercial beginnings. And one Taiwanese seafood processor and fish and shrimp producer has made it its mission to tackle some of these issues.

“We have been in business for more than 40 years,” Terry Tsai, who works in the trading department of Fortune Life Enterprise, told Fish Farming International during a visit to the company’s premises in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. “We have tested many systems [to tackle issues of pollution from cheap feed] and we now believe we have found the solution.”

The company’s secret weapon is a naturally occurring bacteria, which mixed into the feed through a probiotic, results in a healthier fish, more stable water quality, and less pollution. It is called the BUIK system.

The so-called FSE bacteria — actually a mixture of 50 selected bacteria — originated in Japan. The system is only seeing its first beginnings in Taiwan now. Through a high temperature fermentation process, Fortune Life turns organic waste, mostly fish byproducts such as bones sourced from its processing plant, and the FSE bacteria into a probiotic, which is then added to fish feed. In a number of tests with tilapia and giant grouper, the company found out that its application stabilizes both fish health and water quality (the bacteria lives on in the fish’s stomach and is released into the water with its feces) and consequently reduces the usage and cost of drugs.

Tilapia showed an increased feed conversation ratio, an increased survival rate and improved flesh quality with higher unsaturated fatty acids, resulting in lower cost and lower use of antibiotics. Giant grouper on the other hand showed an improved growth performance and improved intestinal health, said Tsai.

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Overall, the probiotics “effectively reduce” the level of ammonia, nitrites sulfides and residual chlorine, and stabilizes the water pH, he said. In addition, it improves immunity against disease, reduces mortality and makes the fish more resistant to temperature fluctuations. It also improves the level of dissolved oxygen in the water and helps degrading dead algae, fish waste and bait residue in the water.

“After the tests we’re sure this system is destined to be widely used by the industry,” said Tsai.

The company is now cooperating with Taiwanese feed companies Dacheng and Thaishan and several fish farmers in the area to spread its use in Taiwan, Jerry Tsai, sales manager at Fortune Life, told Fish Farming International. “The fish feed is produced by two feed companies, we supply the probiotic,” he said. For the production of the probiotic, which accounts for about 3 percent of the final fish feed, the company built a dedicated plant near Kaohsiung.

The company then supplies the feed to farmers, acts as a trader between the feed companies and fish producers of sorts, and then buys the market-ready tilapia and grouper to process at its plant. “We do the whole cycle,” Tsai said. The feed has also been used at its tilapia and shrimp farms for the past two years, which the company operates in Songhla, Thailand. “We have really good feedback from our customers,” said Tsai.

Further expansion is already on the agenda, Frank C.H. Tsai, president at Fortune Life, told Fish Farming International. “We want to introduce the systems to a number of countries, and want them to produce the probiotic.” In cooperation with the Japanese and Vietnamese governments, the company will soon send the first production machine to Vietnam, for which Fortune Life owns a license. “Vietnamese aquaculture has seen a number of issues with diseases,” Frank C.H. Tsai said, adding he believes the system will help tackling some of the problems.

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