Bayer increasing footprint in China’s aquaculture scene
With rising domestic demand for crustaceans, China’s shrimp farmers are seeking products and advice to improve their output. Some turn to one of the most recognizable corporate logos across China – that of German chemicals giant Bayer, which is increasing its footprint in China’s aquaculture sector as it seeks to profit from tighter environmental regulation and efficiencies in the country’s shrimp farming sector.
Bayer Animal Health is marketing its own water treatment solutions, Proaquatic and Fetant, to warm-water pond aquaculture customers in China. It’s also bundling products and advice by cooperating with Canada-based XpertSea, which uses artificial intelligence to improve efficiencies in aquaculture, U.S.-based Cytozyme, whose products enhance metabolization activities in the pond-soil and pond-water environment, and Chinese firm KEHONDA, a manufacturer of disinfectants and surfactants. Ruiqing Yao, head of Bayer Animal Health China’s aquaculture division, and Bayer Animal Health Global Head of Aquaculture Jan Koesling talked with SeafoodSource about the company’s ambitions in China and beyond.
SeafoodSource: What kind of annual growth are you anticipating in your sales in China?
Yao: We do not provide specific figures, but we can share that we have been growing above market for more than a decade. We are appreciated by shrimp farmers as a valuable partner.
SeafoodSource: Harnessing big data for aquaculture has become a big topic in China’s aquaculture industry. How unique is Bayer’s digital farming solution for aquaculture?
Koesling: The digital technologies adopted in farming must be practical and add value to the operations. As pond aquaculture evolves, we continue to focus on addressing the need of shrimp farmers and we progressively introduce practical digital tools to help them to enhance efficiencies and optimize resources. In China, we have developed a digital farm record system that enables shrimp farmers to enjoy the convenience of having quick and easy access to automated reports. We are currently enhancing the system to incorporate in-pond sensors that would automatically track and record pre-determined farming parameters. We anticipate that this will be a welcomed enhancement for shrimp farmers as it can dramatically simplify how ponds are managed for optimal efficiency.
We value close and direct contact with our customers. We continually provide scientific education through online live training sessions. And to facilitate customer communication and exchange, we leverage WeChat to offer education through gamification and an online inquiry and consulting service that gives shrimp producers convenient access to our experts.
SeafoodSource: Where is the demand in terms of species – is it in aquaculture farms producing higher-value species like shrimp or are carp and tilapia farmers also buying your products?
Yao: We have been focused on addressing needs in shrimp farming, but our solutions will also provide benefits to pond producers culturing other warm-water aquaculture species.
SeafoodSource: How are you promoting your product in the Chinese marketplace?
Koesling: The pond environment is complex yet maintaining a balanced pond ecosystem is essential for any successful shrimp farm. We help shrimp producers in China to achieve this through a comprehensive pond water-treatment solutions program that is tailored to address farm-specific needs. We are not just talking about individual products, but a sequential application of several products in a complete program, complemented with consulting services from our trained personnel. When applied as a program, each product brings in its own efficacy, and the same time works together with the other products to deliver an overall enhanced productivity. In turn, this helps shrimp farmers to mitigate overall risks.
SeafoodSource: How is the Chinese aquaculture market changing in terms of clientele? Are the smaller farmers exiting the market? Are bigger investors moving in?
Koesling: China is a big, but also a scattered market for aquaculture, with more than 100 cultured species. There are some big investors in the market with species such as crab and crayfish, but it is generally still small- and medium-enterprise pond farming. This is linked to the complex pond-water and pond-soil environment that needs intensive and careful management, which smaller operations are better able to provide.
SeafoodSource: Are you offering training to Chinese aquaculture farmers or do you work through your distributors?
Yao: We engage with distributors, as well as directly with aquaculture farmers with continued education. Each year, we offer more than 1,000 online and in-person educational opportunities with aquaculture experts.
SeafoodSource: What are your main distribution channels in China and how are you developing these?
Yao: Shrimp farms are primarily small- and medium-sized enterprises that are spread out throughout China. We effectively reach these shrimp farmers through a dedicated field force that supports a strong network of exclusive retailers. Additionally, we enhance customer engagement through WeChat.
SeafoodSource: How much did the increased enforcement of environment rules in China change demand for products like yours?
Koesling: Advancing how we culture safe, healthy, affordable, and sustainable seafood is essential to the future of the aquaculture industry. As a company, we contribute by ensuring that we are responsible in our business practices and that the products and solutions we develop consider the safety and health of people, animals, and the environment. We believe that our comprehensive water-treatment solutions program is well suited to help farmers to enhance pond water and soil quality, which benefits shrimp cultivation and is also important for water recirculation in a closed-pond aquaculture system.
Photos courtesy of Bayer Animal Health