Aquafeed project shows promise to improve income of farmers

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By Milthon Lujan

by RH Ledesma*
To help lower the price of fish amidst volatile food prices across the country, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) is coming up with a new fish feed formulation that is cost-efficient and eco-friendly.

Using byproducts of ethanol production, rendered animal protein, and processed copra meal, a scientist at SEAFDEC/AQD formulated fish feed that performed better than commercially available feeds as proven in pond trials.

The SEAFDEC/AQD-formulated diet is cheaper as it only costs about P28 per kilogram to produce, while the average cost of a commercial feed is about P34 to 36 per kilogram.

“We came up with this feed formulation to lower the price of feeds which account for more than 50 to 60 percent of the total production cost in aquaculture,” said Dr. Roger Edward Mamauag, a scientist at SEAFDEC/AQD and head of its Technology Verification and Extension Division.

Dr. Mamauag compared the new formulation with commercial feeds in high-density tilapia pond culture and found it will cost about P1.6 million in commercial feeds to provide for one hectare in a year of operation, while only P1.2 million using the new formula.

Accounting for the costs and returns of the trial runs, net income from one hectare of tilapia ponds is about P21,862 in a year using commercial feeds, and P543,925 using the new formula.

The field trials were done in 2020 at SEAFDEC/AQD’s Dumangas Brackishwater Station (DBS) in Iloilo as part of a collaborative project between SEAFDEC/AQD, the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Cheaper ingredients

Dr. Mamauag used cheaper and locally available protein ingredients such as distiller’s dried grain soluble, poultry by-product meal, and protein enhanced copra meal as a substitute to the usual fishmeal, which is an expensive, imported, and unsustainable fish-based ingredient.

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“SEAFDEC/AQD’s goal is to lessen our dependence on fishmeal as a protein ingredient in feeds since it is expensive and unsustainable to harvest fish from the oceans to feed the fish in the farms,” said Dan Baliao, chief of SEAFDEC/AQD.

With the move to veer away from fishmeal dependence, the field trials showed that the new formulation was more efficient than the commercial diet. It had a lower feed conversion ratio, that is, less feeds were needed to produce a volume of tilapia.

“The tilapia that we fed with our diet gained about 730 percent of its own weight after 90 days, while the tilapia fed with a commercial diet only gained about 680 percent,” said Dr. Mamauag.

Good for farmers and consumers

Baliao also said that the success of this project would also benefit consumers since fish would be available at a lower price if the aquaculture production cost is reduced.

“We are happy with the outcome of this project, and we are looking forward to the mass production of these cost-effective feeds that would benefit our fish farmers and consumers,” said Dan Baliao, chief of SEAFDEC/AQD.

Asked for comments, Dr. Jaime Gison, a medical doctor by profession who operates fishponds in Iloilo City and Banate in Iloilo, said that he is happy with the significant result attained in the 90-day culture of tilapia.

“A shorter culture period and cheaper costs of feeds imply more croppings in a year hence more profits for the farmer,” added Dr. Gison, who is also a former trainee of SEAFDEC/AQD.

Costs can still go down

“The cost of the feeds that we developed will still go down if produced on a commercial scale. That is why we are doing these field trials to check the effectiveness of the feeds before giving the formulation to private feed manufacturers for adoption,” added Dr. Mamauag.

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The field testing began in 2019 when verification trials of the SEAFDEC/AQD-formulation were done in tilapia ponds at the BFAR National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

“The results of the field testing that we did in Muñoz and in Dumangas are almost the same, and to further confirm these positive results, we will also be doing a field trial this year in Taal, Batangas, which will start in July 2021,” shared Dr. Mamauag.

Field testing of the feed was also done at SEAFDEC/AQD’s Igang Marine Station in Guimaras; Guiuan Marine Fisheries Development Center – BFAR 8, Guiuan, Eastern Samar; and BFAR 1 Regional Mariculture Technology Demonstration Center, Sto. Rosario, La Union for milkfish reared in sea cages.

*Source: SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department

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