Blue Archipelago, Inc.
Two Big Shrimp Farms in Malaysia
On March 2, 2012, at Aquaculture America 2012 (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA), I interviewed Dr. Nyan Taw, senior technical adviser at Blue Archipelago Berhad, which has two big shrimp farms in Malaysia: iSharp/Kerpan in northwest Malaysia and iSharp/Setiu in northeast Malaysia. The iSharp names are derived from “Integrated Shrimp Aquaculture Park”. Blue Archipelago is owned by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, a government investment company and a strategic investor in new industries and markets in Malaysia.
Shrimp News: Tell me about the iSharp/Kerpan farm.
Nyan Taw: It’s the older farm of our two farms and located in the state of Kedah in northwest Malaysia. Designed in the 1980s as a flow through farm for Penaeus monodon, it’s on a 400-hectare site and has 0.8-hectare ponds. Now we’re growing P. vannamei, exclusively. We haven’t given up on monodon, but will probably wait until we can get specific pathogen stock before we grow it again. The farm has around 225 employees, a small hatchery and a small processing plant, which are affiliated with the farm but independently run. Later on there will be a feed company. We don’t get all our seedstock from the hatchery, nor do we do all our processing at the processing plant. I advised management that it’s best to have outside companies supply some of these services. We select from several hatcheries and processing plants, always choosing the ones that supply the highest quality. We don’t produce our own broodstock; we purchase it from Charoen Pokphand/Malaysia (via CP in Thailand), Shrimp Improvement Systems (SIS) in Singapore and Cargill in Malaysia (via the Oceanic Institute in Hawaii, USA). Our hatchery is small, but we plan to build a large hatchery at iSharp/Setiu in northeast Malaysia. We don’t have a feed company yet, but we plan to build one. Currently, we get most of our feed from CP and Gold Coin.
Shrimp News: How did you get the job with Blue Archipelago?
Nyan Taw: After I gave a presentation as a consultant at the company’s request, they offered me a job, and I took it. One of my first recommendations was to switch to vannamei from monodon because specific pathogen free (SPF) vannamei broodstock and seedstock were available. For me, SPF is very important for running a successful shrimp farm. Management agreed with me, and that’s why we’re growing only vannamei now. Originally, it was a flow-through farm, but we changed it to a modular system with treatment ponds for the incoming and out-going water. Our seawater source is from 2.4 kilometers from the seashore. Each of the nine modules consists of four reservoirs or treatment ponds and 20 growout ponds. From the growout ponds, the water flows into a sediment basin and then back to the ocean. We stock 80 to 100 animals per square meter and use about 24 horsepower of paddlewheel aeration per hectare. We’ll probably purchase some Aero2 aerators from the United States, too. Two modules have fully lined ponds; the rest just have liners on the pond banks, where crabs do most of their burrowing. We are in the process a fully lining all of the ponds and hope to complete that process by the end of this year.
Shrimp News: What are the biggest advantages of lined ponds?
Nyan Taw: Faster crop changeovers. Easier to clean. Fewer disease problems. Stable water quality because soil factors are not affecting the water chemistry. And all around better biosecurity.
Shrimp News: Are you having any problems with early mortality syndrome, EMS?
Nyan Taw: In 2011, on behalf of Blue Archipelago, I went on a consultancy trip to Vietnam, and at the time EMS was affecting Vietnam. Later on, we found EMS in some of our ponds and lost about 10% of one crop to it. True to its name, it hit soon after stocking. We have no idea what causes EMS or how to control it. We practice good biosecurity and attempt to make our shrimp as happy, healthy and stress free as possible, and that seems to be keeping EMS off our farm.
Shrimp News: Are you having any problems with whitespot?
Nyan Taw: No. Earlier when the farm was still growing monodon, we had some problems with whitespot, and when we first started with vannamei, we had some problems, but with our new modular system and biosecurity measures, we have no problems with it.
Shrimp News: What chemicals do you use to treat your incoming water?
Nyan Taw: Only those approved by the Malaysian government and those that follow Best Aquaculture Practices guidelines. We use a crusticide that leaves behind no residue. It’s slow acting, ten to fourteen days, but it works and then disappears. It kills the eggs and larvae of any crustaceans that get into the treatment ponds. Our entire system is designed to prevent whitespot from getting onto the farm. Chlorine works very fast, but because of its fast action, it doesn’t always kill all crustacean eggs. Sometimes when we need new water in a hurry we use chlorine. Chlorine is about eight times as expensive as the crusticide we use. It may appear to be cheaper, but you have to use 25 to 30 parts per million. With the crusticide, we only have to use 1 to 2 ppm.
Shrimp News: Do you have problems with any other viruses?
Nyan Taw: No.
Shrimp News: Do you take measures to keep birds out the ponds?
Nyan Taw: Yes, we use nets and long lines of wire strung over the ponds.
Shrimp News: Do you use crab fences?
Nyan Taw: Yes, we install 30-centimeter-high, plastic crab fences around all the ponds and around the treatment ponds, too. Many farms don’t use crab fences around their treatment ponds, but it’s important to have them there as well. You need to do a good job with the crab fences, so they stay in place all the time.
Shrimp News: How do you feed?
Nyan Taw: Initially, we used hand feeding, but now we’re using automatic feeders.
Shrimp News: Do you use feeding trays?
Nyan Taw: We use some feeding trays to check on shrimp health and to see if the shrimp are feeding; we used to use them a lot more when the farm was still raising monodon, but with vannamei, we rely more on biomass estimates and established feeding ratios.
Shrimp News: Why would feeding trays be more applicable to monodon?
Nyan Taw: With monodon the stocking density is very low, 30 to 35 per square meter, and they are slow, bottom feeders, so you can estimate the feed consumption quite accurately with three or four feeding trays in each pond. Vannamei, on the other hand, are very active feeders and they are doing a lot of their feeding up in the water column and don’t visit feeding trays as frequently as monodon. We depend more on established feeding rates with vannamei.
Shrimp News: How computerized are you?
Nyan Taw: We don’t have an in situ monitoring system, but our pond operators and supervisors enter all the pond parameters into our pond management software and every week summaries of that data come to me, and I make the necessary adjustments. We collect daily information on how much feed goes into each pond, water temperature, oxygen levels and other water quality parameters.
Shrimp News: Are you doing anything with bioflocs?
Nyan Taw: Yes, in the two modules that are fully lined (approximately 20 to 22, 0.8-hectare ponds, about 15% of the farm), I use what I call a semi-biofloc system with a stocking rate of 130 postlarvae per square meter. Not all our pond managers are trained in the use of bioflocs, so as we train them, we will introduce more biofloc ponds. In the biofloc ponds, we add molasses and a grain pellet in addition to a high-protein pellet. From the two ponds that are fully biofloc, we get about 22 metric tons per hectare per crop. In the semi-biofloc ponds, we get about 15 to 17 tons per hectare per crop. Production varies with stocking density. The non-biofloc ponds are stocked at 80 PLs per square meter and produce about 11 tons per hectare per crop.
Shrimp News: How many crops per year do you get?
Nyan Taw: We plan on two crops a year. With the lined ponds, we may get 2.4 crops per year.
Shrimp News: I’ve heard rumors that CP Foods in Thailand has genetically improved animals that were growing at the rate of a gram a day. Are you able to get any of those animals?
Nyan Taw: Four or five years ago in other parts of Southeast Asia, it took about 120 days with aeration and the right stocking density to produce an 18 to 20-gram animal, which is the current target size for all our ponds today. Now, with the same stocking density, we get that size in 100 days. With bioflocs, we get there in 90 days, so growth rates have improved, but not to a gram a day.
Shrimp News: Do you think CP will make its genetically improved animals available to the industry?
Nyan Taw: We hope so. But we are pursuing our own broodstock program and hope to develop our own, fast growing, genetically improved animals.
Shrimp News: Have you been through the trade show. Have you seen the PL counting machine that Larcos Aquaculture is displaying? What do you think of it?
Nyan Taw: We are very interested in that equipment because it could resolve a major problem for us. The estimates that we use today for stocking ponds are frequently inaccurate and that can lead to all kinds of problems like over or under feeding, which can be very costly. We’ll have to test it. Our strategy is to wait and see how it performs. It looks very promising.
Shrimp News: How do you harvest?
Nyan Taw: When the farm was still farming monodon, we used a tradition drain harvest through a sluice gate. Now we harvest within the pond by concentrating the shrimp into a concrete harvesting pit and pumping them out.
Shrimp News: I’m ready to move on to your farm on the northeast coast of Malaysia, iSharp/Setui. Where is it located and how does it differ from iSharp/Kerpan?
Nyan Taw: It’s in the state of Terengganu, and we have a 1,000-hectare site. When completed it will have about 400 hectares of square, half-hectare ponds and another 100 hectares of reservoirs, canals and sediment ponds. We have completed the water system and we should finish phase one of construction this year, which will include about 260 hectares of ponds. In phase two, we’ll complete the full 500 hectares. I was hired to develop this farm as senior technical advisor. Again, for biosecurity and management reasons, I designed a modular system. It’s similar to iSharp/Kerpan in that it has treatment ponds, but it’s a recirculation system; none of the water flows back to the sea. The incoming water goes into a settling basin, then into a pond with seaweed or oysters, then into a treatment reservoir and then into the ponds. Since it was designed with modules and not reshaped from a traditional pond system, it should work much better than the iSharp/Kerpan farm. We’re going to get into biofloc farming much faster at this farm. First, however, we will have to train all the employees and management in biofloc technology. We’re going to develop it in stages so when we finish phase one, about 25% percent of the ponds will be semi-biofloc ponds, just like those at the iSharp/Kerpan farm, along with a few high-density biofloc ponds. With the second crop, as we train more pond managers in biofloc technology, we’ll probably increase the percentage of semi-biofloc ponds to 40%. The entire farm, including the canals are lined. Square ponds make the aeration system more efficient. We’ll be using more Aero2 aerators at this farm, but not exclusively, because paddlewheels circulate the water better and concentrate the sludge in the middle of the pond.
Shrimp News: What will you do with the sludge that accumulates in the ponds?
Nyan Taw: All the ponds will be lined, so we can flush them out and into the settling basin. We hope to harvest the sludge from the settling basin and sell it as a by-product.
Shrimp News: Will you be able to dewater the sludge, concentrate it, compress it and use it as a feed?
Nyan Taw: That’s one of things that we’re looking into. It can also be used as a fertilizer on row crops.
Shrimp News: Are you doing anything different with equipment at this farm?
Nyan Taw: Yes, we have a new way of doing the crap fences. We bring the pond liners up and out of the ponds and then fold them down sharply at a ninety-degree angle so they from a solid barrier to any crabs that attempt to enter the ponds. They form an impenetrable wall with little added cost. Crabs bore holes in the canal banks, but since were lining the canals, were excluding crabs there, too.
Shrimp News: What about disease problems on the East Coast?
Nyan Taw: Last year at this time, many of the shrimp farms on the East Coast were hit with EMS, but we were not operational then. We started to stocking our ponds in late October 2011, the worst time of the year for stocking because of all the heavy rain we get in the winter and early spring. Management wanted to get the farm started, so we stocked some ponds. There’s a big peak in rainfall in December and January every year. It changes the water quality—temperature, salinity, bioflocs and algae—and stresses the shrimp and they become susceptible to disease. So we did not stock all the ponds that were ready and just did a trial run. We stocked two modules, 48 ponds, with various stocking densities and didn’t have any problems; we didn’t lose any ponds. Because of all the rain, the salinities dropped from 32 to parts per thousand to 7 in one week.
We don’t have a hatchery on the East Coast, but we have a big one planned. We want to have the hatchery ready as soon as possible because seedstock availability is a problem on the East Coast, especially for big farms like ours. Were also going to start a broodstock program on the East Coast.
Background Information on Dr. Nyan Taw
Shrimp News: How did you get started in shrimp farming?
Nyan Taw: I got my PhD from Tasmania University in Australia, and after graduation I went back to my home country of Burma (now Myanmar) and took a position with a university as a lecturer in fisheries and aquaculture. Later, I joined the Fisheries Corporation (now the Department of Fisheries) and established a research and development project on fisheries and aquaculture. I went to my first international shrimp farming conference in Cochin, India, in 1978. That was before the World Aquaculture Society was holding meetings in Asia.
Shrimp News: As a result of your work, did any shrimp farms get started in Burma?
Nyan Taw: Yes, we got a lot of small shrimp farms started that depended on natural stocking. We also had a ADB (Asian Development Bank) project that began in 1976 using Philippine technology, but the site selection was not very good, and that project never took off. In 1980, after attending the first giant prawn conference in Bangkok, Thailand, with Michael New’s help, we started a research and development hatchery for freshwater prawns. Later, the government through an ADB project started a program in fish, prawn and shrimp (Penaeus monodon) farming. That’s when Robins McIntosh first came to Burma. He was one of our project consultants. He met and married a Burmese woman.
In 1988, Burma faced a political crisis and a military regime took over. I had already served my ten years to the government in return for my university scholarship and was able to get on one of the last flights out of the country. I was able to get out because I had joined a United Nations development project and told the officials there that I would go anywhere to get out of the country. My first job was in East Java, Indonesia, as a United Nations Volunteer, at the first FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) shrimp project in Indonesia, working on backyard shrimp hatcheries and providing technical support to commercial shrimp farms and hatcheries in the area. It was an FAO shrimp culture development project.
After Indonesia I served FAO as advisor/consultant in Vietnam and the Philippines. Then, in 1995, I joined a big shrimp farming company in Indonesia as a director and senior advisor. I managed two, one-hundred-hectare farms and a hatchery. In 1997, the Asian economic crisis hit and the value of the Indonesian currency dropped dramatically. Almost everyone was fired, including all the American guys, but they kept me because I was helping them earn money. That farm also let me do to FAO short-term consulting work for two to four months every year. Next I took a job with an Indonesian shrimp farm on the island of Sumbawa, at a farm that was having a problem with whitespot. I was only supposed to stay two months and wound up staying for two years. Because of my work at that farm and FAO experience, I got a job with CP Indonesia, then I left CP and took a job with Dipasena as senior vice president, at a huge project in Sumatra, which was eventually taken over by CP.
Information: John Cooksey, World Aquaculture Conference Management, P.O. Box 2302, Valley Center, California 92082, USA (phone 1-760-751-5005, fax 1-760-751-5003, email email@example.com, webpage https://www.was.org/Main/Default.asp).
Information: Dr. Nyan Taw, Blue Archipelago Berhad, T3.9, KPMG Tower, 8 First Avenue, Persiaran Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia (Phone +603-7725-0020, fax 603-7725-2050, email firstname.lastname@example.org, webpage http://www.bluearchipelago.com).
Sources: 1. Dr. Nyan Taw. Interview by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International. The World Aquaculture Society Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, on March 2, 2012. 2. Dr. Nyan Taw. Interview by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International. Background Information. The World Aquaculture Society Meeting in Veracruz, Mexico, on September 26, 2009.