As the global population grows, so does the demand for fish and the pressure on aquaculture to increase productivity. This is particularly true in Vietnam where the population will increase by 15% to 103 million by 2030. Fish is a staple food throughout the country and an affordable source of micronutrients and essential fatty acids that are vital for good health.
Intensive aquaculture relies heavily on commercially produced fish feeds, which can lead to increased water usage and pollution. To both reduce this environmental impact and improve the nutritional value of farmed fish, the “Nutritious-system feeding concept; nourishing Vietnamese ponds to produce quality seafood” project aims to increase the contribution of naturally occurring food in the diets of farmed fish and shrimp.
Launched on 20 November 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, the project will work with Vietnamese aquaculture farmers to research an innovative “nutritious-system” concept that involves feeding not only the cultured animals in the pond but the entire pond ecosystem, including algae and bacteria in the water. These microbes in turn produce nutritious, natural food for the fish or crustaceans in the pond. This system reduces costs for the farmer and may increase the nutritional value of the fish and shrimp – in particular the concentration of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. In Vietnam, where more than 23% of children are stunted and 12% are underweight, increasing the availability of affordable, nutritious foods, like fish, is essential.
Spanning five years, the project combines research with technological innovation to improve the feeding system, while ensuring that productivity and profitability are retained. The project will assess which factors contribute to the transfer of essential Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids through the pond’s food chain and determine the ideal ratio of algae and bacteria for optimal water quality and nutritive value for fish and shrimp. These technologies will be translated into new commercial products like improved pond feeds, feed additives and culture protocols. The project will also assess the social and institutional factors affecting the uptake of this feeding system in Vietnam’s aquaculture industry.
Making aquaculture more efficient, reducing costs and lowering environmental impacts with fewer losses due to disease or water quality failure will strengthen the aquaculture industry, benefiting all stakeholders including poor and vulnerable consumers.
The project is funded through the Netherlands Organization for Agricultural Research WOTRO Science for Global Development, and is led by Wageningen University in partnership with WorldFish.