The shrimp sector in Vietnam has been facing problems with the quality of its shrimp. To address this, the Dutch consultancy Larive International started a partnership with support from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). ShrimpTechVietnam is an international collaboration of companies that improve shrimp farming in the Vietnam Mekong Delta. They do research and help local shrimp farmers increase their production sustainably. Bert Meijering owns Topsy Baits, one of the ShrimpTechVietnam members. He says, "Animals can only live a healthy life if their environment and what they eat are also healthy."
Problems in the Vietnamese shrimp sector
Vietnam is one of the world's largest exporters of shrimp. The country produces 650,000 tonnes of shrimp yearly, and most are farmed in the Mekong Delta. Due to the rapid growth of intensive shrimp farming, the sector has experienced a few problems. For example, the water in the Mekong Delta is very polluted. The shrimps eat worms that live in the polluted water and carry bacteria that make them sick. The farmers use antibiotics to get rid of bacteria. But using too many antibiotics and chemicals pollutes the aquatic environment and decreases the quality of the shrimp. Larive International wants to improve this situation through the partnership.
Consultancy firm Larive International helps companies find new trading opportunities. The agency has members in 25 countries and a large network. Some of these contacts work in the shrimp farming sector. Larive started a Dutch-Vietnamese collaboration in 2019 with support from RVO. It now coordinates the partnership and carries out activities. Partners in the collaboration include:
- Shrimpvet, a Vietnamese company that researches shrimp;
- TipTopp Aquaculture, a Dutch company that develops probiotics as an alternative to antibiotics. Probiotics are dietary supplements with good bacteria;
- Sustainable Aquaculture Solutions, a Dutch company specialising in shrimp health and disease prevention;
- Nutreco, a Dutch animal feed company with a local production facility in Vietnam;
- Topsy Baits, the largest supplier of farmed live bait in Europe.
An alternative to antibiotics
Bert from Topsy Baits does not believe antibiotics are necessary. "Animals can only be healthy if their environment and what they eat are also healthy. Then they will not get sick," he says. "In Asia, the worms used as shrimp feed often carry bacteria and viruses. And fish farmers use antibiotics to fight these diseases, " he adds.
Bert believes there is another way. He explains, "Our company farms worms. In the beginning, they were only used for fishing. Now, we supply a special worm worldwide: the ragworm. We produce these worms as sustainably as possible, and they do not carry pathogenic bacteria or viruses. We test them for that." He adds, " Our worms make sure the shrimps are healthy and reduce the need for antibiotics. "
Collaboration has its benefits
Bert is happy with the successful collaboration, "Local shrimp farming will improve significantly because of ShrimpTechVietnam. This project has also brought us a lot as a company. We previously tried to research the efficiency of live, frozen and dried ragworms. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned. Through this project, we worked with the Vietnamese research agency Shrimpvet.
Shrimpvet examined our ragworms. The number of eggs shrimp produce with our live ragworms is 4 times higher than with frozen or dried ragworms. We now supply 600 kilos of worms to Vietnam every week. Thanks to the collaboration, we have also established contacts in other countries. We now deliver to India, and will soon export to Ecuador. The worldwide demand for worms is high. The extra stock from ponds we built last year is already sold out, and we are busy with our next expansion."
Achieving more together
"Together, we achieve better results," says Bert. "We each have our own role and complement each other. For example, Shrimpvet conducts its research at Nutreco's local production location. We provide demonstrations and information. With TipTopp, we give presentations to local shrimp farmers. We teach them about the consequences of their current working methods. And about alternatives to antibiotics." Nutreco has also created animated videos to raise awareness among Vietnamese shrimp farmers about the advantages of reducing antibiotic use. This is how ShrimpTechVietnam contributes to a sustainable future for Vietnamese shrimp farmers. The result? After 4 years, the project has reached more than 200,000 local farmers via workshops, seminars and videos. All partners in the collaboration have also increased their sales.
Bert adds, "Shrimp are extremely important for Vietnam. But due to the high antibiotic levels, countries sometimes refuse shipments of Vietnamese shrimp. Even the Netherlands has refused shipments before. Things have to change. That is why we want to work with even more companies. We are already talking about ShrimpTechVietnam 2.0."