This Malaysian company breeds neo-female freshwater prawns to increase yield. What is that?

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The large freshwater prawn (udang galah) is one of Malaysia’s most popular local delicacies. In fact, Malaysia is the first country in the world to successfully farm freshwater prawns and has been commercially farming these prawns since the 1960s.

However, few local farmers wish to cultivate these freshwater prawns as the traditional farming method produces a low yield.

Fortunately, a Malaysian company GK Aqua used the wonders of biotechnology to manage this problem.

The problem with traditional farming methods

In order to understand how they did it, we must first understand why the traditional breeding method is not effective.

In a typical udang galah mixed population culture, the male to female ratio is 30:70.

A female shrimp can weigh around 58g while a large male shrimp can weigh 171g. Weight differences also mean that shrimp are sold at different prices.

In the international market, female shrimp would cost 5 USD while male shrimp would cost 15 USD.

In addition to having no guarantee of productivity rates, these shrimp could be victims of diseases, affecting the shrimp population and therefore the yield.

How did they solve it?

GK Aqua has successfully used biotechnology intervention to create all-male farmed shrimp, aka neo-female shrimp. What is that?

Believe it or not, neo-female shrimp are male shrimp modified to be able to lay eggs and create all-male spawn.

Genetically enhanced shrimp have provided benefits such as:

  • Shrimps 3 times bigger, about 200 g per shrimp
  • Disease resistant shrimp
  • 200% higher market value for male shrimp
  • The harvest becomes more manageable; farmers do not need to separate female shrimp, which ensures uniform size and actual growth rates
  • Shrimp grow at a faster rate, around 4 months instead of the usual 9 months

According to GK Aqua, they have an easy-to-scale model that allows farmers with a pond to quickly set up and adopt the new farming method. They will also supply the fry to the farmers.

Picture: GK Aqua

GK Aqua also buys back adult shrimp from farmers so farmers don’t need to do their own marketing or handle logistics.

Freshwater prawns would then be sold under the GK Aqua brand. M’Ros to consumers and businesses through seafood retailers and exporters.

Where is it grown?

So far, GK Aqua has enrolled 20 farmers with medium to large farms in the Freshwater Shrimp Joint Venture Program. They also included marine farmers and they successfully farmed freshwater prawns in water with a salinity of 10 PPT.

The company is working closely with the state government to make Negeri Sembilan a recognized “shrimp valley” and create more entrepreneurial opportunities for Malaysians.

To cement Malaysia as the country of origin for freshwater prawns, GK Aqua has concentrated production in the country instead of setting up facilities in China and Singapore.

A pilot project has been launched in Teluk Intan to integrate rice farming and freshwater prawns (UGADY).

To date, GK Aqua’s freshwater prawns have been exported to countries such as Mauritius, Cairo and Dubai to meet market demand.

If all goes well, Malaysia will be recognized globally as the country of origin for premium freshwater prawns.


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