Sustainable Shrimp Farming in Vietnam Helps Boost Economy and Food Security

Sustainable shrimp farming in Vietnam will help the country boost its economy and food security. (CSIRO/WikimediaCommons)

Many pond owners in Vietnam find shrimp farming a lucrative business, accounting for 55% of the shrimp produced worldwide. Investors looking for profitable revenues have improved farming methods with industrialised systems but sometimes at a cost.

According to Seafood Watch, Vietnam is the largest producer of giant tiger prawns with the scientific name of Penaeus monodon. This ASEAN member produces 37% of the entire global production and makes 816 thousand metric tonnes. Additionally, the country is a leading exporter of prawns and shrimps to the United States.

Almost 95% of all Black Tiger Prawns harvested in Vietnam are farmed in the Mekong Delta. It’s also where Pacific White Shrimps are farmed, which accounts for 75% of the entire Vietnamese production. According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep), Vietnam exports shrimp to the Netherlands, which is the second largest importer within the European Union.

Shrimp Farming in Vietnam

For several decades, shrimp farming has been a huge part of Vietnam’s economy. It’s a rewarding business for rural farmers, but extremely uncertain at the same time due to diseases. Adding to the risks are climate change and precarious rainfall making it more difficult to control diseases. According to some prawn farmers in the country, these afflictions can plague 6 out of 10 of their crops.

Usually, when these farmers discover disease in their harvest, they will send samples of the crustaceans and water to a faraway laboratory. Additionally, they will need to wait for many days for the result. That was before the Singaporean Kit Yong and Vietnamese Michael Nguyen founded Forte Biotech.

Forte Biotech is a biotech company that develops quick, hassle-free, and precise on-site molecular diagnostic tests. The analysis enables shrimp farmers to distinguish diseases in their shrimp farms. This helps them curb losses from diseases through immediate detection.

The two National University of Singapore (NUS) graduates, Yong and Nguyen, developed a disease surveillance kit called RAPID. It stands for Robust Accurate Prawn Infection Detector and is an inexpensive and simple-to-use CPR-style diagnostic system. The kit allows farmers to get laboratory-grade results in an hour without leaving their farms.

Shrimp farmers used to treat their crops with antibiotics to combat and prevent diseases, which is a dangerous farming practice. Besides, the treatment is no longer effective and the disease seems to be already immune to antibiotics, according to a number of shrimp and prawn farmers.

Safe for Humans to Eat But Huge Loss of Profit for Farmers

When diseases occur in a shrimp farm, there are no noticeable indicators until it’s too late. Affected shrimps or prawns don’t pose a threat to human health upon consumption. However, a decomposing shrimp is another story because people can no longer eat it. Besides, farmers are possibly to lose their harvest, leading to considerable social, economic, and environmental problems.

The development of RAPID will help shrimp farmers in Vietnam have sustainable shrimp farming that will help bolster the economy and food security.