BioMar signals its intent in Ecuador

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock
BioMar is looking to accelerate the development of Alimentsa, less than a year after acquiring the majority stake in the Ecuadorian shrimp feed producer; it said it wants to fortify the company in what is a highly competitive market, despite the recent low shrimp prices.

The Danish feed producer said sales volume at Alimentsa has continued to increase, and it has recently commissioned a fifth production line in order to secure sufficient capacity next year. That is set to be on stream early 2019.

Its new feed trial and development facility, announced in November, is also progressing according to schedule and will be operational later this year, it said. That new research facility or Aquaculture Technology Center (ATC) will combine the knowledge of both BioMar and Alimentsa under one house.

R&D focus in Ecuador

Product development and technical customer support for BioMar's Ecuadorian operations are also being reinforced – the technical director for BioMar Central America, John Tinsley, relocated to Guayaquil in May. He is collaborating with Alimentsa's R&D manager, Laurence Massaut, on feed trials and product development around that new ATC. 

Ecuador is the fifth largest exporter of shrimp to the US, after India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam (Source: SSP).

The shrimp market in Ecuador produces about 450,000 tons of shrimp a year. Growth rates in the market are expected to be about 8-12% and Alimentsa has a market share of about 12-15% in Ecuador; it sold about 77,000 tons of feed in 2016 (Source BioMar).

We caught up with Tinsley to hear more.

He said high performing diets and functional feeds will play a vital role for BioMar in Ecuador, not just at the grow-out phase, but at every stage of shrimp production, from hatchery to harvest, particularly as the sector there comes under increasing pressure from retailers globally to reduce its reliance on antibiotics.

“The expansion of the ATC in Ecuador signals our intent to really enter into this market, which is the hub of Vannamei shrimp​ production in South America. What we do here [at the Ecuadorian ATC] will have implications elsewhere, the research generated here will filter throughout the various factories we have globally.”  

He said the role of the technical directors in BioMar is to act as a bridge between the research, the product development, and the commercialization.

“My day-to-day activities involve everything from formulation to liaising with the global R&D group in Norway and translating that into new products, but also working very much on the customer side of things with our technical team here, working with the division on sourcing or the sustainability team on its new solutions.”

He said market fluctuations in shrimp prices are certainly a challenge but such volatility also brings opportunities. “One of the things shrimp producers here are looking for is efficiency. That is one way of maintaining their competitiveness on the global market.”

The need to reduce mortality or improve the robustness of animals and, thus, enhance productivity and efficiency is informing shrimp feed research at BioMar, he continued.

In terms of quality and sustainability, Ecuador has the upper hand on a lot of shrimp producing countries, said Tinsley.

Certain countries, historically, have had problems in relation to disease but production in Ecuador has bucked the trend, increasing year on year. Shrimp producing countries in Asia has taken more of a hit in that regard.”

There is a fundamentally different approach to shrimp production in Ecuador compared to elsewhere, he said.

“There are relatively low densities, and semi-intensive and extensive farming, with a focus also on genetic selection – that whole package has contributed to the increases in productivity.”

That is part of the appeal for BioMar and other players in the feed industry that have recently invested in Ecuador, he said.

Sustainable shrimp project

The Danish feed company also expects to play a critical role in the Ecuadorian Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP), he said. That is an initiative launched in March this year aimed at bolstering the country's existing reputation as a source of safe and sustainable shrimp. The SSP is a certification based on Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards, but with additions in relation to water quality, traceability, and antibiotic usage.

“This is a very ambitious project. Sustainability is a subject in which BioMar actively engages. We see this as an opportunity that we will grasp with both hands, and we aim to give as much as support as we can to our customers and to the industry in this regard,”​ said Tinsley.

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