The Importance of R&D in Aquaculture Sector
Research and Development (R&D) works, which are carried out for the development of a new product, improvement the quality of an available product or for cost reducing activities, are among the most important activities required for a sustainable growth. Developed countries allocate a 3% share for R&D investments and their economies are directed with R&D activities. In Turkey, however, the budget allocated for R&D is too small and it has been hardly approached to 1% with the investments made in 10-11 years.
As in other production sectors, the most critical point in fish feeding sector is reducing the production cost, as well. Fish feeders are obliged to reduce their costs and implement innovations enhancing the product quality in order to compete with its rivals both in and outside the country and to increase their market shares.
In order to reduce the fish feeding costs, it is required to decrease fish deaths, use high quality feed and prevent excessive feed consumption. Feed cost representing the biggest item of the business capital in fish feeding (between 70 and 75%) may either make the production activity profitable either cause to losses. Thus, it is required to provide the same production with less feed. There are two ways for it. First one is to reduce feed production cost and the second one is to provide same growth by using less feed by implementing a suitable feeding strategy.
It is necessary to develop the cheapest and most effective new feed formulas by carrying out R&D works regarding raw materials and additives used in the feed in order to reduce feed production cost. The fluctuations in fish meal and fish oil production due to the decrease in natural resources and the increases in the costs brought forth the obligation to conduct R&D works for the new raw materials in the sector.
Feed additives, which are used for fish growth and health and also as nutrients and energy sources, are another topic in the fish feed industry for which R&D is needed. The R&D projects to be implemented for the additives which have many affects such as increasing the feed digestibility, controlling the breeding, accelerating the growth, preventing and treating the diseases, preventing the oxidation in the feed, pigmentation, increasing fish appetite, etc., will ensure a more productive fish breeding and development of target oriented and problem solving feed.
In the developed countries, very big budget R&D projects are implemented about the alternative protein and oil sources which may be used instead of fish meal and fish oil as well as about the effects of different additives. In Turkey, there are limited works about the alternative protein sources which may be used in fish feed; however, testing laboratories where controlled feeding trials can be performed are especially needed. Since the establishment of the testing laboratories and implementation of R&D activities by feed factories will both take time and be costly, it is important that such trials are performed in university laboratories by cooperating with the universities.
At the present time, there are universities having wet laboratories where both trout and sea bream and sea bass feeding trials are performed. In those laboratories, the most affordable and effective solutions should be achieved for the private sector by carrying out R&D trials for many alternative raw materials and additives within the framework of university-industry cooperation.
The quality of the produced feed is quite important, however, it is also critically important that the feed are used by applying a correct feeding strategy in fish breeding establishments. Unconsumed feed and excessive feed consumption of the fish which are encountered in feeding process are the issues that require attention and R&D works. For this reason, it is needed to calculate the growth models of the bred fish depending on the water temperature profiles in the establishments and the energy amount required for daily fish growth, and accordingly the feed amounts to be consumed daily. As a result of the R&D works carried out for such issues, it is possible to determine the growth models of the fish and the feed amounts to be consumed and to save about 5-15% of the feed used by those establishments.
When it is taken into consideration that the most important cost component is feed in Turkish aquaculture sector, which continues to grow at a sustainable rate, it will seen that the R&D works to be conducted by fish feeding specialists will increase the profit and competitive strength of the sector day by day. Therefore, the companies which invest in R&D will always continue to be strong and at the leading position in feed production and fish breeding sector.
Prof. Dr. Ahmet Adem Tekinay
Faculty of Fisheries, İzmir Katip Çelebi University