Advances in mariculture

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  • Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013

(Brief caption):Texchem Food Sdn Bhd assistant general manager research & development Soh Chee Weng(left) and research executive Indra Farid doing the water quality testing PH, Salinity, Ammonia and Temperature at the larval culture tanks at the hatchery.//CHAN BOON KAI/THE STAR/(28th Sep 2013 )

PENANG-BASED Texchem Resources Bhd is looking to add another venture to its portfolio. The company is in a race to develop the world’s first commercial crab hatchery. The hatchery, already beyond the experimental stage, is being developed in collaboration with Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Texchem chairman Tan Sri Fumihiko Konishi is confident that the project will position the group ahead in the race as most of the crab hatcheries in Asia are still in the experimental phases.

Texchem is also collaborating with the Fisheries Research Agency in Japan for the hatcheries project in Penang.

“We are now operating a pilot crab hatchery in collaboration with USM’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) at Muka Head in Teluk Bahang. We will sign and extend the collaboration for one more year, which will carry the joint effort to develop the world’s first commercial crab hatchery into its fourth year,” Konishi said.

Should the project be successful, the crab hatchery will give an added boost to Texchem’s food division.

The company also has interests in the industrial, polymer engineering and restaurant sectors.

Konishi said the group first started an experimental crab hatchery with SeaPack Food Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Texchem, in Penang more than four years ago.

“A successful commercial crab hatchery will ensure a steady supply of crabs for the group’s soft-shell crab business and reduce our sourcing from fishermen. This will also allow the natural environment to replenish its stock of crabs, ensuring that there will not be a shortage of wild crabs.

“Once successful, the hatchery will boost our positioning as the world’s leading soft-shell crab producer in the world,” he said.

In Myanmar, Texchem’s food business division harvests 50 to 60 tonnes of soft-shell crab a month for the global market.

The project with USM studies the various aspects of cultivating crabs outside their natural environment.

“Our aim is to find a way to reduce mortality rates at the hatchery so that we can commence commercial production. One of the objectives is to grow crablets to the desired size of around 100g for the soft-shell shedding process,” said Konishi.

At Cemacs, Texchem has a research team comprising specialists in marine biology who are working with USM’s marine biologists on improving the quality of plankton, the foodstuff of crabs and the environment of the hatchery so that it is conducive for the commercial farming of crabs.

Konishi pointed out that, within the region, there are also government research centres such as the South-East Asian Fisheries Development Center (Seafdec) in the Philippines and the Fisheries Research Agency in Japan that are trying to develop similar crab hatcheries.

Nonetheless, most efforts have been relatively unsuccessful as the mortality rate of the crabs is still high.

Under the terms of collaboration with USM, Texchem provides a RM100,000 research grant to USM annually. The group is also spending RM300,000 a year on the project. The collaboration with USM will certainly benefit Texchem in the long run.

Additionally, Texchem is also working with USM’s Usains Holdings Bhd to develop a type of wrinkle-free and fire-resistant cotton fabric for its customers.

Another collaboration with the university’s School of Material and Mineral Resources Engineering will help the group develop bio-based material from agricultural waste.

“We are also carrying out on-going research with USM’s etymology centre to improve our range of insecticides.

“Texchem works with the centre to breed different families of flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches found in Asia so that we can test the effectiveness of our insecticide spray,” Konishi said.

Konishi is pushing for more collaboration between the private sector and local universities.

“This is to ensure that the products of research and development activities from the university are relevant to the needs of the industries. The local universities have abundance of qualified human resources and research and development equipment upon which the industries can tap.

“They also obtain Federal Governments grants to invest in research and development equipment and human resources, which the private sector is unable to do so on a regular basis. Tapping on such local sources will help the private sector to save substantially on research and development activities,” he noted.

For his contribution to the field of science, Konishi, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmaceutical Science from Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, was recently awarded by USM an honorary doctorate degree.

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