The pivot that’s helping a tilapia producer cope with covid restrictions

4 December 2020, at 4:00pm

A change in business model seems to be paying off for Europe’s best-known tilapia breeder.

Til-Aqua has already stopped producing naturally-male tilapia and will only be able to supply YY-males until the end of December 2020 © Til-Aqua

Following a frustrating year plagued by transport restrictions caused by Covid-19 and tilapia lake virus, Til-Aqua recently decided to branch out from selling live tilapia fry – a move that has netted them the first of a new breed of deal this week.

“Like many other companies, we are currently confronted with transport issues – limited available flights and closed borders – due to the coronavirus. The import restrictions that some countries have imposed regarding the tilapia lake virus had already severely limited our current operations. As a result, we decided to change course drastically so as not to lose 25 years of genetic effort: we have put our genetics for sale to interested parties,” explains Eric Bink, director of the Dutch firm.

Til-Aqua’s first deal in the new era has been signed with Gardsfisk, a fast-growing tilapia producer in Sweden. According to Bink, they will need about 3 million tilapia fingerlings for their own company and partners net year, which would make it a very significant deal by European standards.

“They will start producing NMT soon and in a few months also YY production. There are several other YY genetic centres to be set up soon (Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, US, Tanzania) and we are now in advanced negotiations for transferring the YY technology to various parties worldwide,” adds Bink.

Despite the radical shift, Bink's plans appear to have been validated.

“We believe that transferring our YY technology to countries for local YY production is the best option. These parties would own YY-males and YY-females and would receive the information on how to maintain these lines. With these fish, they can produce their own YY-males; the broodstock that produces NMT [natural male tilapia] offspring. These YY-males can be both used for your own NMT production and distributed to interested parties. [our own] NMT production has since stopped. We will be able to supply our YY-males until the end of December 2020,” he adds.

Senior editor at The Fish Site

Rob Fletcher has been writing about aquaculture since 2007, as editor of Fish Farmer, Fish Farming Expert and The Fish Site. He has an MA in history from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in sustainable aquaculture from the University of St Andrews. He currently lives and works in Scotland.

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