Biofloc: zero waste aquaculture technology
Countries around the world are investing in clean technology to raise fish in aquaculture farms... to meet the growing demand for seafood.
And Korea is no exception. Aquaculture technology in Korea: Our News Feature tonight with Kim Hye-sung.
Yoon Jong-hwa manages a new aquafarm that opened on Korea's South Sea that cultivates pacific white shrimp.
He will take his first crop--one ton of five-month old shrimp-- to market across the country next week,...the first time since the farm opened in June.
The farm uses an advanced aquafarming method called biofloc that purifies tank water... as microorganisms that feed on fish waste, like ammonia,... become food for shrimp when fully grown, meaning there is zero waste in the process.
"Biofloc technology makes our business lucrative and eco-friendly. The technology enables us to adjust the water temperature and reuse 99 percent of the water without using any antibiotics. We can cultivate shrimp any time of the year and we produce ten times more shrimp than other aquafarms of the same size."
Aquaculture, the farming of fish under controlled conditions, has been used in Korea since the 1970s to raise marine plants, and in recent years, the government has invested in eco-friendly aquafarming technology like biofloc to meet the growing demand for seafood.
"The ocean's marine resources are limited, and if people keep catching fish at the current rate, these resources will disappear by 2050. To manage the limited supply of fish and satisfy the growing demand for seafood, cultivating fish using aquaculture is the only answer."
Here at the National Institute of Fisheries Science, eel, a favorite with Koreans, grow at a healthy rate in these round tanks.
"The white liquid you see is the eel's sperm."
Researchers are inseminating the sperm with eggs to breed eel, and they say finding the right timing and feed are critical, which is why it takes decades to perfect the process.
To speed things up, the institute has invested over five million U.S. dollars in eel aquaculture since 2008.
Four years later, in 2012, they cultivated artificial eel eggs, and three years after that, they hatched their first glass eel, which produced its own eggs.
"Researchers are successfully breeding eel here in a completely controlled environment. Not only that, in terms of pollack, they also became first in the world to do so."
Pollack have been absent from Korean waters for more than a decade due to overfishing and rising ocean temperatures.
But Korean scientists have developed a feed that can survive in low temperatures...and for the first time they raised a second generation of pollack this year.
Korea has also begun exporting new technologies like biofloc... and earlier this year... shrimp were raised in the middle of the Sahara Desert in Algeria... using tap water.
But experts say that for Korea to become a major player in the global aquafarming industry, greater investment and policy changes are needed.
"In Korea, fish farms are small operations with about three farmers each, which helps produce a diverse range of fish but makes mass production difficult. A change in the current aquaculture law, which bars conglomerates, is needed."
For instance, Norway, which exports 10 billion U.S. dollars worth of seafood annually, or 20 times more than Korea...have companies leading seafood production.
"Norway, the world's largest exporter of salmon, has companies managing the entire value chain, reducing costs and maximizing benefits. Countries like Denmark or Japan are also investing in clean technologies like smart-farming and equipment for high-quality mass production."
That's why the Institute is testing a remote-control system called RAS, which is scheduled to be commercialized by 2019.
"The system lets people check temperatures, acidity levels and water circulation from afar, which could reduce labor costs and facilitate mass production."
With the global population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, the demand for protein is expected to grow by 70 percent. And the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has pointed to fish as a promising future source of protein in the future,
And to meet that demand, here in Korea, researchers are working to advance the technology... so fish farmers can make the transition from catching fish to raising them.