India, with its vast coastline, offers tremendous scope for aquaculture.

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Renewing its focus on aquaculture, Kings Group a pioneer in the seafood export business since 1960’s has come out with a new technology driven business model, equipping farmers for a sustainable aquaculture production.  The global fears over antibiotic issues, rising clamour for traceability of food on table, overfishing of oceanic resources and consequent damage to the ecosystem and the government's stepped up efforts to stem the rot have prompted the Kochi based company to introduce new technologies.

“These indigenously developed technologies suitable to local conditions will go a long way in boosting the country’s fish production and its presence in the overseas markets for marine products,” Shaji Baby John, Chairman & Managing Director, Kings Group told Business Line.  Accordingly, the Group is in the process of launching STQC (sustainable, traceable, quality, certified) aquaculture hub models in coastal areas which assures responsibly grown, safe-to-eat fishes whole quality is certified and history could be traced back. In line with the initiative, the Group has already opened its first STQC-based hub at Chippikulam in Tuticorin by transferring necessary technologies to the farmers, kick-starting the sustainable production process.

Right from brood-stock availability, the model covers the entire gamut of seafood exports’ value chain. The technology transfer includes setting up of open cycle re-circulating aquaculture systems incorporating biological controls, aqua-mimicry, biofloc technologies and proper usage of probiotics for a disease-free multi-tropic farming practice, he added. India, with its vast coastline, offers tremendous scope for aquaculture as sea catch is dwindling due to environmental concerns. And, what is exciting is that aquaculture has the potential to develop many other species instead of sticking to the ‘shrimp-alone’ practice.

“We can cultivate quite a variety of fishes to meet market requirements based on local conditions thanks to technological strides,” Shaji said. He, however, stressed the need for an integrated management approach, encompassing both coastal and inland aquaculture. India, according to him, is utilizing only 10 per cent of its current potential. This reflects in the country’s aquaculture production estimated at 5.7 million tonnes vis-à-vis 49 million tonnes of China which continues to be global player.

Considering the declining catches from the seas, it is pointed out that 2/3rd of the world fish demand would be met from aquaculture by the year 2030. “So, there is a big space and a huge opportunity.  Kings Group had earlier floated Victory Aqua Farms Limited in 1986 for an integrated scientific aquaculture production with Japanese collaboration. The Group withdrew from the business following a Supreme Court ruling that called for the demolition of aquaculture farms in CRZ and resumed its activities later in 2007 following the bill passed by the government on coastal aquaculture.

The Group now operates aqua farms in around 100 acres in Tuticorin with aproduction of 700 tonnes a year. It also runs a shrimp hatchery in Ongole, Andhra Pradesh. It plans to bring 500 hectares under sustainable farming with the introduction of STQC Hub model.