Improving the performance of tilapia farming under climate variation

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By Milthon Lujan

Rome, Italy.- A bioeconomic model has been developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) based on experiences in China to show how optimal arrangements of farming operations can improve the technical and economic performance of tilapia pond aquaculture.

Tilapia is the world’s most popular aquaculture species, farmed mostly in earthen ponds. Experience in China, the largest tilapia farming country, is used to develop and calibrate a bioeconomic model of intensive tilapia pond culture.

This paper presents the methodology and results of the model. The results reveal the mechanisms and extent by which aquaculture performance can be improved through optimal farming arrangements. The methodology provides technical guidance on bioeconomic modelling in tilapia pond culture and aquaculture in general.

The simulation results indicate that: (i) an increase in feed price, an increase in mortality, or a decrease in fish price significantly reduces profitability, whereas an increase in the cost of seed, labour, rent, electricity or water management has smaller impacts on profitability; (ii) considering the impact of water temperature on fish growth, the profitability of a production cycle starting at the optimum timing may be twice as high as one starting at the worst possible time; (iii) farming arrangements that maximize the profit of individual fish crops may not maximize overall profitability because of path dependency of farming performance; (iv) optimal farming arrangements that maximize overall profitability can significantly improve economic performance; (v)  given no price discrepancy against small-size fish, harvesting at about 300 g in two-year-five crop arrangements could increase overall enterprise profitability by up to 50  percent compared with harvesting at > 500 g in one-year-two-crop arrangements; and (vi)  a two-tier farming system that separates nursing and outgrowing ponds could allow one-year-three-crop arrangements that enhance profitability by up to nearly 90 percent
compared with the one-year-two-crop arrangements.

With more refined information on fish growth under different farming conditions, the model could become a decision making tool to help farmers design optimal farming arrangements.

Reference (open):
Cai, J.N., Leung, P.S., Luo, Y.J., Yuan, X.H. & Yuan, Y.M. 2018. Improving the performance of tilapia farming under climate variation: perspective from bioeconomic modelling. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 608. Rome, FAO.

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