A glimpse at local aquaculture

Rokiah Mahmud

Eighty participants of the Tutong and Labi Farm Tour, organised by Darussalam Travel and Tours, explored the country and visited local farms recently.

The group visited agriculture and aquaculture production locations in the Tutong and Belait districts, starting with Berjaya Aquaculture, a vertical mud crab farming in Danau, Tutong.

Established in 2018, Berjaya Aquaculture not only aims for commercial farming using aquaculture technology, but also envisions being a training centre for those keen on mud crab farming.

Berjaya Aquaculture Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and owner Dato Paduka Haji Jamain bin Haji Julaihi hopes the mud crab vertical farm can be a centre of excellence in aquaculture in Brunei Darussalam, and promote aquaculture in the Sultanate through non-conventional farming.

He also hopes it can create jobs while diversifying the local economy and ensuring sustainability and food security.

“There are four common species of mud crab, but Scylla Serrate or the Sri Lankan crab, and Scylla Olivacea are most common in Brunei waters. Female crab can lay over five million eggs, but only five per cent will survive, growing to adults. Mud crabs can live up to five years.

Visitors at Berjaya Aquaculture. PHOTO: ROKIAH MAHMUD

“Berjaya Aquaculture can accommodate up to 2,000 muds crab at one time.

“Ninety per cent of the mud crabs produced at the farm were caught in the wild and later stored in vertical boxes for them to grow for fattening purposes and stock during off-season,” he said.

On the process of mud crab fattening, Dato Paduka Haji Jamain said that after moulting, crab musculature takes some time to grow to fill its new shell. A crab in that state is referred to as an ‘empty’, thin or water crab. If the crab is cooked, it will appear to have little meat as it mostly contains water.

“The fattening process takes time. The mud crab is continuously fed until it grows to a commercial size (within 300 to 500 grammes) and becomes meaty – usually within six months to a year, before selling”, he said.

The centre also offers training, with theory and hand-on facilities and course material. Open for local and foreign participants, the course covers an introduction to mud crab, supply chain, market forces and competition, understanding recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and future development of mud crab potentials in the Sultanate.

Berjaya Aquaculture is looking to grow giant freshwater prawns using a RAS hatchery by this month; RAS hatchery and grow out for sea bass, hybrid groupers, red snapper and saltwater tilapia in January 2021; Sri Lankan mud crab using RAS hatchery by June 2021; as well as a grow out farm for giant fresh water prawns by September 2021.

These new aquaculture farming methods have potential to create employment as demand for mud crab is growing, and it is easy to farm without the need to have a huge area thanks to the vertical method.

From Danau, the group travelled to Rampayoh, Labi in Belait District, to check out fresh-water prawn and fish farm initiated by Usaha Tani Deli Duman.

The five-hectare farm was established in 1994 for giant freshwater prawns (macro- brachium rosenbergii) and the company has livestock ponds for shrimp production.

According to the owner, they also receive assistance from the Department of Fisheries and Department of Agriculture and Agrifood enabling them to hatch for the production of its own lobster offspring. In 2015, the company produced 0.191 metric tonnes of lobster. The next year, the company produced 0.619 metric tonnes (a 224 per cent increase from the previous year) and the production target for 2017 was seven metric tonnes. The company has the potential to produce 16 metric tonnes of lobster per year and 720,000 lobster seeds per year by 2020.

The final destination was Merimbun, where the group explored agriculture harvest by the locals. An assortment of local vegetables were on sale. The group also sampled rosella juice, pumpkin fritters and many more.

Group participant Khadizah described the trip as “eye opening,” and would appeal to families.