Aquaculture for all

Growing Shrimp And Tilapia Together

Crustaceans Economics +2 more

BRAZIL - When a disease known as white spot appeared in Santa Catarina, years ago, producers of shrimp in captivity were banned from selling shellfish. Instead of closing the marine farms, some have tried to diversify production, including producing tilapia in the same pond.

"The ecological balance generated in this system enabled the production in polyculture farms infected by the virus before the white spot (white spot syndrome virus)," says engineer Aquaculture Frederico Santos da Costa, who graduated from the University of Santa Catarina.

Mr Costa was one of the pioneers in the state to work with this type of system and made the first experiments on a farm in Barra do Sul, in 2007. During his Masters, Mr Costa tested the technical and financial feasibility of creating tilapia with shrimp and the results were published in 2008. Shortly after, he opened the company Marine Aquaculture Eco, with a colleague at the Aquaculture Department of UFSC. After being awarded as one of the top 10 projects in the programme, Synapse Innovation, FAPESC, he decided to start commercial production of fish and shrimp.

"In two years we have produced over 100 tons of tilapia and five tons of shrimp," celebrates Ricardo Bruno Scopel, Director of Technology and Eco Marine. "We've done partnerships with producers and Tijucas Araquari, and now we are approaching the consumer market in Curitiba and Sao Paulo, the company's target markets." He goes further: It wants to add value to fish, not only offering it in frozen fillets.

"If improvement is done correclty, you can use almost all of the tilapia, including skin. This type of leather is used to make purses, handbags, boots etc."

Innovate is a matter of survival for both partners, not discouraged with the low prices of tilapia. The variety produced in ponds using family labour, low technology and less resources, resulting in a cheap fish. To prove that it's worth paying a little more, Mr Costa said: "Scientific studies show that sensory analysis of fillets of tilapia produced in brackish water are so widely accepted as there are fillets of whiting and hake. This tilapia has firmer texture and flavour marinade and is appreciated mainly in Japanese restaurants."

Other studies have shown that tilapia has a beneficial effect on the ecology of polycultures, because they eat microalgae, clearing the water for cultivation. The shrimp feed on portions of the food consumed by fish, bacteria and debris from the sedimentation of organic matter, algae and even killed the feces of tilapia. This eliminates the need to give a shrimp feed that in the monoculture systems represents 60 per cent of variable costs.

In polyculture, only moribund or dead shrimp are eaten by fish, eliminating the possibility of transmission of viral diseases. "We found a faster and more feasible to reactivate the farms that had stalled due to white spot virus," says Mr Scopel.

He and Costa - Executive Director of Eco Marine - won the Retail Award Sustainable Walmart in 2010, with the design of marine shrimp cultivation system in environment friendly, high productivity and low environmental impact. The previous year had been awarded the Prime Program, FINEP (Financier of Studies and Projects). The firm's partners intend to continue investing in technologies of production, employing an innovative project for shrimp farming, called "bioflocos system, which virtually eliminates the discharge of effluents and increases productivity by 50 times compared to traditional crops. These benefits were crucial to the project being considered one of the top 10 by Synapse Innovation Program, Operating 2009.

Currently underway, the next issue of Synapse received 1,158 proposals. Of these, 200 passed the first selection. The authors classified the proposals should detail the ideas and turn them into projects to be subjected to two more trials. In the end, 40 companies will receive R $ 50 thousand from FAPESC to develop innovative products or processes. website for details.