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Pioneering hatchery in India supplies barramundi seeds to farms in push for shrimp alternative


July 21, 2020
By Nestor Arellano

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Efforts to encourage the production of barramundi in India recently got a boost with reports that a facility in Karaikal in the Union Territory of Pondicherry produced 15 tons of the fish from a mere one-hectare area.

The demonstration farm operated by Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA), was established to persuade the local farming community to grow the fish, also called Asian sea bass, as an alternative to shrimp aquaculture. The RGCA is the research and development arm of India’s Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).

RGCA is also operating a three million-fry capacity seabass hatchery at Thoduvai in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam district that is the first of its kind, according to MPEDA.

As much as 18 million seeds have been been produced and supplied to the farming community across the country as an alternative species for shrimp aquaculture.

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“For farmers in the east coast of the country, especially those in Kerala, the seabass seeds from the RGCA hatchery in Tamil Nadu are brought and reared to fingerlings in MPEDA-RGCA Multispecies Aquaculture complex (MAC), Vallarpadam, and supplied to the farming community at affordable cost,” a press release from the marine export body said.

Barramundi is traditionally produced as “plate fish” for the restaurant trade, but the fish is now largely being sold as fillets for direct sales to the major supermarkets, according to MPEDA.

“It has white flaky flesh and milk flavour is highly preferred by consumers and fetches around Rs.400 ($5.02) to 500 ($6.60) in local markets. It is having good demand and value in both domestic and export market,” MPEDA said.

Barramundi is farmed in freshwater, brackish water and saline waters, and can be cultured in open pond as well as in cages.

The RGCA farm produced its first harvest in just 10 months. The average body weight of the fish was 1.2 to 1.5 kg.

The fish were fed with artificial floating pellet feeds and the food conversion ratio (FCR) was found to be extremely encouraging at 1:1.8.

The production cost was$3.96 per kg and the fish were sold at farm gate price of $5.55 to 450 per kg. A profit of $22,454  was earned from the fish produced from the farm, according to MPEDA.