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Australian grouper project aims to support Vietnamese farmers by delivering nutritional data required to formulate cost-effective feeds

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), in partnership with grouper breeder, The Company One, aims to support grouper farming smallholders in Vietnam to improve their SME businesses by engaging with aquafeed companies to produce commercial feeds.

The year long, AUD 206,470 project aims to tackle key nutrition bottlenecks to strengthening Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in response to the DFish’s goal to build a foundation for SME growth in the hybrid grouper sector in Vietnam.

Hybrid grouper farming is the most profitable marine fish aquaculture sector in Vietnam, involving over 400 hybrid grouper hatchery operators and growout farmers. The Directorate of Fisheries aims to increase SMEs in marine aquaculture and considers the lucrative hybrid grouper sector a prime candidate for this strategy. The hybrid grouper sector continues to be constrained by reliance on a nutritionally poor and variable supply of ‘trash’ fish. Trash fish diets leads to poor health of stocks, and widespread pollution of surrounding farming sites.

Farmers report they are willing to use more sustainable, cost-effective formulated feeds, but development of commercial feeds in Vietnam is constrained by a lack of data on feed formulations suitable for hybrid grouper.

This project will fill key gaps identified by a review and stakeholder consultation. It will deliver nutritional data required to formulate cost-effective feeds that promote superior growth and survival to ‘trash’ fish, so attracting smallholders to switch from unsustainable ‘trash’ to formulated feeds. Cooperation with large feed mills in Vietnam’s private sector will support the local supply of cost-effective diets for hybrid grouper and underpin broad scale adoption of commercial pelleted feeds.

Project outcomes are: to identify optimal methionine levels and methionine-taurine interactions for giant grouper. These key nutrients are critical to define appropriate species-specific formulation, contributing to feed cost reduction, growth optimisation and pollution minimisation through more appropriate nutrient profile; identify the impact of choline, inositol and lecithin on liver fat levels, lipid digestibility and metabolism. These are critical nutrients for fat digestion, absorption and metabolism. Determination and implementation of optimal values are expected to improve feed efficiency, growth and liver function; determine the impact of dietary starch on the speed of digestion and liver size through glycogen deposition. By determining the trade-off inherent with starch as a technical aid in feed manufacture and fish growth performance, we intent to guide aquafeed companies toward production methodologies that optimise digestive capability and therefore growth and feed efficiency for farmed grouper; ensure that nutrition research is implementable and informed by the industry in Vietnam and Australia; Capacity building in aquafeed research techniques.

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