Why R&D Is Essential in Aquaculture


Research and development (R&D) in aquaculture is essential.

Widespread commercial aquaculture is relatively new, and far from perfect. There are so many elements that we can refine and enhance, and the only way to achieve that improvement is through R&D.

What is R&D in aquaculture?

R&D is taking an element of aquaculture and running tests to improve it.

A feed trial is an example of this. You could improve the food conversion rate (FCR), the size of the fish, the taste of the fish, the appearance of the fish, or any other number of elements. You know what a species eats in the wild; you know what other people feed the species, but you don't know what food will produce the best results.

To carry out a test of this nature would require around 4 tanks. The fish in each tank should be fed a different diet for a set period of time that will vary depending on the species.

You could then review which tank produced the best tasting, best looking, healthiest, and biggest fish. If you are lucky, a single test like this may double your profits by reducing production costs or significantly improving the quality of the product. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how few aquaculture businesses strive to improve.

The Benefits of R&D

Having an R&D mindset is important. It is the easiest way to improve your aquaculture business, and it can save money in the future.

You can identify issues or components of the business that are not entirely efficient and discover new ways to upgrade them. Set regular team meetings to discuss what areas of the business could benefit from improvement.

R&D is also an excellent opportunity to find new talent. Ask a graduate to manage an experiment and see how they perform. If they are successful, you can entrust them with bigger and more costly projects. If they are not, the performance of your aquaculture business will not be affected.

However, it is important that you never carry out R&D for the sake of it or because you think you must. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of change for change's sake, or copying other businesses, without considering the needs of your own business.

If an area of your business works and is profitable, don't change it. It is a perfect of example of "don't fix that which is not broken."
Break the entire business down into segments and review them in isolation before deciding which areas can be improved.

The Downsides of R&D

There is really only one downside of R&D, and that's the cost.

If a business is not profitable, then it is unlikely they can afford to carry out the research needed in order to make it profitable.

This is why it is so important to evaluate your available funds and time before starting any project. If you are lacking in either department, it is probably best to steer clear of starting a new aquaculture business.

How Do you Carry Out R&D?

There are only two reasons to carry out R&D: to improve your profit or to better the environment. For example, I have carried out numerous projects involving waste management to reduce our impact on the environment. They did not improve our profits, but they benefited the environment.

If you do not have the money or time for this, then your focus should be on your profits. You need to identify an element of your business that isn't working well or that you think could work better. You then need to make an investment and carry out a thorough test in order to obtain the best results.

It is good practice to spend between 5-10% of your profit in R&D. This counts even if you
are producing a species you have successfully grown for 10 or more years.

If your business is already established, R&D should be a completely separate department so that it doesn't affect production. For start-ups, a completely different approach is needed; the entire business should be R&D.

If you are starting a new aquaculture company, it is important to have a timeline and a strict budget. Five years should be a maximum timeline. If you have not made a profit in this time, it is unlikely that you will.

My advice is to engender an innovation culture which inspires your team to look for new and better ways to run your business. Aquaculture is relatively new, so there's a real chance you will discover the next system or process which will become the industry norm for the future.

R&D is time-consuming and expensive, but it is also incredibly rewarding. I hope you enjoy carrying out R&D in aquaculture as much as I do.