Trailblazing Taiwanese company touts 'controlled-environment' grouper

Published on
March 28, 2016

Taiwan had a major presence at the FOODEX trade show held 8 to 11 March at Chiba Prefecture’s Makuhari Messe exhibition center, with 111 companies exhibiting, grouped in the Taiwan Pavilion. Taiwan is also the origin of many of the show’s overseas visitors. In the previous year, attendees from Korea, Taiwan and China accounted for 42.3, 16.9 and 13.9 percent of the show’s visitors, respectively.

The Taiwan Trade Center in Tokyo sponsored two seminar presentations at the 2016 show: one on oolong tea, and the other on marine products. The latter featured two speakers: the chief technical officer of Hydean Biotechnology spoke on grouper aquaculture, and Yang Yun Yu, accounting manager of Just Champion Enterprise, based in Nanzhou Township, Pingtung County, spoke on eel production.

Hydean Biotechnology promotes an integrated production model that it calls a “cultivation chain.” It includes a broodstock facility, a plankton factory, a hatchery, a nursery and a grow-out facility – all indoors in a controlled environment. The used water and fish feces produced by the facility is subsequently used in hydroponic vegetable cultivation, with the feces used as fertilizer. The company calls this process “controlled-environment facility farming,” and also referred to its process as an “aquatic organism factory,” and the speaker predicted that is will be an important industry for the next generation of aquaculture entrepreneurs.

The Taipei-based company raises giant grouper and leopard coral grouper as well as eel. Giant grouper is processed into various steaks, cubes and filets. Leopard coral grouper has a bright red color, considered auspicious for festive occasions in Chinese culture, and is sold whole for plate presentation.

Three challenges face the grouper industry in the future, according to the speaker: establishing environmentally controlled conditions in the face of global warming, strengthening disease resistance through selective breeding and earlier maturity, and developing vaccines against diseases.

The first issue is addressed by the indoor integrated rearing approach. The Taipei-based company also utilizes specific pathogen-free (SPF) broodstock and advances the timing of sex change from female to male by hormone injection. (Groupers are protogynous hermaphrodites; they begin mature life as females and later some large groupers change into males.) The controlled environment of the indoor tanks also helps prevent disease transmission.

Other future directions are: extending shelf life by preventing formation of ice crystals during freezing, using electric and magnetic fields and processing to ready-to-eat foods.

Just Champion’s Yang noted the long partnership between Taiwan and Japan in the eel trade, with the first glass eels exported to Japan in 1967 and the first mature eels in 1969. Processed eel, such as grilled, kabayaki and skewered eel began in 1973. The peak years were 1990 to 1992, with Taiwanese exports of mature eel exceeding 60,000 metric tons. Native eel species in Taiwan include Anguilla japonica, which is the main commercialized species, Anguilla bicolor pacifica and Anguilla marmorata.

Cultivation is mainly carried out in the south of the island, such as in Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung in outdoor ponds of 2.5 to 3 meters depth. Samples are tested for residues and banned substances by foreign labs and a test report issued before an export certificate is granted, and broiling is carried out according to the Japanese style.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500