Introduction to the Powering Aquaculture Progress partnership in Myanmar

The Powering Aquaculture Progress (PAP) project is public-private partnership set to improve the modernization and development of aquaculture supply chains in Myanmar. It is the largest project with foreign direct investment in the aquaculture sector in the country. The team of Fresh Studio Myanmar is managing this project, in partnership with leading animal feed company De Heus, the Myanmar Fishery Federation, Pathein University and Golden Fish World hatchery. The project runs from 2019-2024.

During this five year period, the PAP project aims to achieve the following overall objectives:

  1. Creating access to modern input and technologies, therefore improving quality and access to inputs for farmers, mainly seed and feed;
  2. Improvements on technical knowledge and know-how of farmers, academic institutions, and technical support staff from private and public organisations;
  3. Improvement in efficiency of farming systems through transition towards more productive, shorter cycle and more diverse species, and increased transfer of adapted technologies;
  4. Support value chain coordination between independent actors and promotion of products toward consumers.

To achieve these objectives, the project has been broken down in three main work packages:

1. Access to inputs and technologies 

To make aquaculture a more profitable inclusive business that adds value to the local community, we will start by improving access to improved inputs and technologies, which is the backbone of any agricultural revolution. Our interventions consist of setting up the first fingerling feed production unit in Myanmar; establishing professional breeding centers, by modernizing two existing hatcheries; setting up the first Aquaculture Application Centre (AAC) in Myanmar, to apply knowledge and technologies from around the world.

2. Build capacity and professionalize all actors

Without proper capacity building and technical extension approaches, the adoption of improved inputs and advanced practices will be low, as they will not used properly and result in poor financial return. Our interventions consist of developing a technical team of local aquaculture specialists in key organisations (private & public); setting up satellite farms to transfer the work conducted on the AAC to the farmers; training of trainers embedded in key organisations to guarantee continuous training of farmers.

3. Strengthen farmers’ position in the chain

Improving the (production) capacity of fish farmers is the first step towards upgrading the aquaculture sector of Myanmar. To have access to finance and the market, there is the urgency to organize them. Our interventions include forming an independent producer organization; developing a quality standard and continuous improvement program among members; actively search for linkages and alliances between various actors in the chain.

The partnership is now in Year 2 and implementation has not been without challenges with the political developments and Covid-19 situation changing the political and business landscape in which the partnership is operating. However, the partners remain committed, and the work that ultimately aims to improve the income and food security of Myanmar’s people has become all the more relevant. Detailed plans for hatchery upgrading are on the way; the design for the Aquaculture Application Center is finalized and ready to be constructed after the rainy season in October; and soon a detailed training curriculum will be developed as a collaborative effort between all partners. The partnership is committed to achieve results!

Training for Pangasius and Tilapia farmers in Vinh Long and Dong Thap provinces

Aquaculture is a vital component of the social and economic tissue for many provinces in the Mekong Delta. In the riverine provinces of Vinh Long and Dong Thap, where nearly half of the national Pangasius production takes place, sustainable expansion of aquaculture is constrained by several factors. Among those, the lack of appropriate extension approaches, limited technological know-how, and variable input quality are very often stressed by local farmers.

Through the PAP “Powering Aquaculture Progress” project launched in 2013, De Heus together with its implementing partners Fresh Studio, Can Tho University and Wageningen University have envisioned the development a state-of-the-art R&D facility serving as a nexus in the Mekong Delta where innovations could be developed, tested and adapted to local conditions in collaboration with local farmers.

After 4 years of development, 2017 marked a new milestone with the first training sessions held at the facility.

Sessions featured stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds, including more than 100 Pangasius and Tilapia farmers, members of the De Heus’ Research and Sales team, local and international industry experts, and academics from Can Tho University.

Because project partners knew that farmers often find training programs irrelevant to the practicalities of their work, Fresh Studio conducted a field survey of farm practices among nearly 50 farms throughout the rainy season to identify knowledge gaps and understand the difficulties experienced during production.

The results from this survey helped select relevant topics and support trainers prepare adapted materials and methodologies.

Using the research conducted in preparation for the program, sessions led by Dr. Mahmoud Haidar and Mr. Nguyen Van Khanh from the De Heus technical team shed light upon the power of data application, and its potential value added on farm efficiency.

Fresh Studio team interviewing a Tilapia grow out farmer during the survey

Disease management, the topic most often requested by the farmers, was led by the renowned Dr. Tu Thanh Dung from Can Tho University. Dr. Dung emphasized the need for more thorough diagnostic procedures to treat the root causes of a disease. She also discouraged use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals as a primary treatment, describing the importance of preventive measures.

Before the workshop sessions, attendees were given to a tour of De Heus’ state-of- the-art R&D facility. This allowed the R&D team to demonstrate the systems and explain how their research could be applied in practice. Fresh studio was responsible for preparing the sessions and facilitating the workshops and Q&A sessions.

Demonstrating technologies applied during the tour of the R&D facility

Farmers were actively involved in the training by raising many questions during presentations and hour-long exchange sessions. The open speaking platform and small number of attendees at each session (15-25 individuals) gave farmers the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics. These included vaccination, antibiotic resistance, seed selection, water quality management, and even emerging diseases.

For our partner De Heus, the opening of the R&D farm and the development of its own internal training program are key steps toward proposing services that should help address a wider range of issues facing producers in the region. Through these efforts, De Heus is beginning to establish itself as a major player in the aquafeed market and contributor to the sustainable development of fish farming in Vietnam.

Miss Tu Thanh Dung talking about disease prevention

Aquaculture Innovation Challenge selects winning innovation

Expert judges’ favoured Entobel as the innovation with the most potential in the finals of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge. Entobel uses food industry waste as feed for the production of black soldier flies, a native insect throughout Vietnam.

These plentiful insects are then used to produce fish-feed, as well as fertilizer. The jury said that Entobel “has a really good business approach, has been proven to be successful in the world already and is part of the race for a sustainable protein supply”. The winning team received the $10,000 cash prize and met with investors, both of which will help them scale up their business.

The winner was chosen by the jury team, each of whom selected their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of innovation that they believed had the greatest business and impact potential. Gaetan Crielaard, representative of the Entobel team, said, “I’m very happy, obviously. For four years in Vietnam, I’ve been working on this project… [the team] all worked very hard and will be happy when I come back to the factory and say we won. This will help us to run the pilot for a few more weeks or months, allowing me to focus more on fundraising to build this factory. The plan is quite ambitious. While we want to start with one factory, the goal is to build more, first in South Vietnam, then the North, and then other tropical countries with a focus on Southeast Asia, but [eventually] Africa and South America. We believe that what we have built here is really relevant for tropical countries.”

A new generation seeking solutions

Integrating public-private partnerships to jumpstart new solutions contributed much to the success of the challenge. Carl Richter, the consul general of the Dutch consulate in Ho Chi Minh, said, “This is basically what we do as governments. We try to inspire and help start-ups, organizations that are run by young bright people to come up with new ideas and solutions for challenges.”

The urgent need for new solutions is clear. Arie Veldhuizen, the agricultural counselor, warned that “in 40 years we have 10 billion people in the world and we have to feed them. We can’t do it the way that we do it now, we have to do it in a sustainable way… these kinds of initiative are really helping to get this done.” He felt this project was unique because it combined start-ups, innovation, sustainability and helping the small-scale farmer. Nguyen van Khanh, from De Heus, one of the AIC’s core partners, commended the professionalism and organization of the AIC, saying that it gave industry professionals and investors access to some great innovations. It allowed them to choose from some of the best innovations to apply to aquaculture in Vietnam, and “many farmers and companies can learn from it”.

Preparing for future success

Over the last few days, the finalists, with the support of coaches both in Vietnam and remotely, have been practicing and preparing their pitches. Dana Roelofs, who has a background in the financial sector and was one of the coaches present, said that she really noticed vast improvements in all of the teams from the boot camp. That both the flow of their pitch, how they could convey their ideas, and their confidence grew over the three-day session. Her last message to all of the finalists was that fundraising is a long-term game, that they have to be persistent and be patient and wait to find partners with the right fit in order to accomplish their goals. During the match-making session, there was a lot of interest shown in the ideas of all of the participants. The hope of Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Solidaridad and Fresh Studio, the organizers of the AIC, is that this interest grows into new partnerships that will shape and improve the aquaculture sector in Vietnam in the near future.

The organizers were happy with the success of the first Aquaculture Innovation Challenge, as well as the presence and participation of so many industry leaders. It’s only through open collaboration that we can continue to face the challenges involved with sustainably feeding our growing population.

Grand opening of the Powering Aquaculture Progress Research and Innovation centre

Thursday May 4th marked the grand opening of the Powering Aquaculture Progress (PAP) R&D facility in Vinh Long, Vietnam.

More than 300 guests attended the event, including representatives from lead partner De Heus, internationally renowned aquaculture companies, leading aquaculture experts from all over the world, government, and farmers from across the Mekong Delta. With an indoor Recirculating Aquaculture System consisting of 111 tanks and 25 outdoor ponds varying between 100 – 2000m2 in surface area, its facilities rival the top aquaculture research centres in Asia.

Mr. Gabor Fluit, Business Group Director of De Heus Asia, described the vision of the research facility not only as a centre for De Heus feed development, but as a “centre for collaboration between public and private stakeholders in the industry”. The opening demonstrated the commitment of De Heus to become a lead player in Asia’s rapidly developing aquaculture sector.

Fresh Studio has been a key partner since project inception, co-developing the centre’s vision and supporting the design and construction phase. Fresh Studio staff is currently responsible for farm management, executing experiments, and carrying out dissemination objectives.

The first of these dissemination objectives is the organisation and facilitation of a training program designed for Tilapia and Pangasius farmers supported by De Heus. The training is not purely a class-room exercise on farming techniques, but provides a platform for farmers to share best practices and implement field trials together with farmers.

In the long term, the aquaculture R&D facility should become a hub for development of concrete solutions from feeding practices to farm management. Together with the high-quality feed developed by De Heus, these locally adapted solutions should help address a wider range of issues facing producers in the region.

This state-of-the-art facility should become the nexus where innovations developed can be tested and adapted to local conditions. By bringing together industry and academia, De Heus and its implementing partner Fresh Studio, Can Tho and Wageningen University hope to provide innovative solutions to sector-defined problems, and support the growth, sustainability and profitability of aquaculture in Vietnam.

De Heus and Fresh Studio open Aquaculture R&D farm in Vietnam in Spring 2017

Dutch feed giant Royal De Heus Animal Nutrition is to strengthen its position in Vietnam’s aquaculture sector in 2017, with the opening of a new research facility in partnership with R&D and consultancy firm Fresh Studio.

The center – due to officially open in spring 2017 – will initially focus on developing knowledge of pangasius, tilapia, snakehead and shrimp feeds. The aim is to improve the feeding performance of these species, to maximize animal growth and limit wastage of resources, Fresh Studio’s managing director Siebe van Wijk told Undercurrent News.

We hope our work can improve efficiency, quality, and stability; that’s how we can start developing the whole supply chain, into a value chain.

Mr. Siebe van Wijk – Director Fresh Studio

Fresh Studio began its work in the horticulture sector in Vietnam, where one of the largest supermarket chains in the world contracted it to develop direct farmer sourcing systems, he said. To ensure farmers complied with the quality standards of Fresh Studio’s client, Fresh Studio developed an extension service and an R&D and demonstration farm. “Within a period of ten years the combination of applied research, extension and cooperation with a large number of technology companies, resulted in the successful introduction of value-adding innovations to thousands of farmers.

Indoors at the new center

Based on this success, Fresh Studio’s client retailer contracted it to develop the same sourcing system for aquaculture. While developing this sourcing system, Fresh Studio too saw the need for the same applied R&D approach in the aquaculture sector, said van Wijk. De Heus, which had just made its first investment in the fish feed sector, saw the same need, and the first partnership stages were formed.

De Heus first became active in Vietnam in 2008, and completed a new factory there in April 2016. Now, two years after the partnership formed, their six hectare facility in Vinh Long Province, Mekong Delta, has an operating, indoor recirculation aquaculture system. Work on the outdoor area is being completed currently.

From Fresh Studio’s presentation at the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge event

The R&D farm was funded through a public private partnership between De Heus, Fresh Studio and an R&D grant from the Dutch government. Links with science were made by involving Can Tho University and Wageningen University. For De Heus, this R&D facility should develop into a key innovation center for its aquaculture feed programs in other Southeast Asian nations, as well as important other fish feed markets, such as China, and Egypt. After one year of research on pangasius and tilapia, the facility is now moving into snakehead and shrimp, said van Wijk, and will branch out into feeding technology and “pure research” on feed, to “provide concrete solutions to farmers on improved feed management”.

The site, as seen from Google Maps

Presenting the initiative at the “Aquaculture Innovation Challenge” in Ho Chi Minh – organized by the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Solidaridad, and Fresh Studio early in December – van Wijk noted that pangasius selling prices at retail were trending downwards, while production costs have risen over the past 16 years. Hence the need for research into feed; feed costs make up over 90% of pangasius farming, and 85% of the cost of producing tilapia too.

Aside from this, poor seed quality and disease outbreaks can also eat into profits for farmers, he noted. When it comes to FRCs, a slight improvement could mean a big difference to margins. Currently salmon’s average feed conversion ratio (FCR) is around 1.1, while pangasius is 1.5 and tilapia 2.6, according to data he presented.

“There’s certainly room for improvement to get a bit nearer that 1.1 mark for pangasius, and that would mean real savings.”

For instance, working on the basis of a pangasius maket price of VND 21,000 per kilogram, an FCR improvement from 1.5 to 1.2 could mean savings of 20%, or VND 4,050/kg, he said. In turn this could lead to an upward spiral of better products and higher yields, improving demand, and ultimately earning higher prices, Fresh Studio hopes.

From Fresh Studio’s presentation at the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge event

We expect indirect savings also. From the farm side, because less feed will be used per pond, less organic matters will be released into the ponds which should limit both the pumping costs to exchange water, and treatment costs to cure diseases.

From a market perspective, these improvements should be perceived positively, and may play a part in driving higher market prices in the long-term, it is hoped. By the time the official opening comes around, De Heus and Fresh Studio will announce collaborations with other key players in the aquaculture sector, who want their technologies and production systems tested and further improved, he said.


The Aquaculture Innovation Challenge successfully kicks-off in HCMC

Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP), Fresh Studio and Solidaridad successfully kicked off the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge on Tuesday, 6 December 2016, with an inspiring event to bridge the gap between innovators and impact investors in the aquaculture sector.

The kick-off event was honored to welcome Mr. Arie Veldhuizen – Agriculture Counsellor from Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands sharing with background information that lead to the mission of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge (AIC): to find the bright minds and enabling them to realize their ambition by connecting them to finance and capital.

With the participation of representatives ranging from Vietnamese and foreign individuals, students, start-ups, project teams and companies working in the aquaculture sector, key information of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge was fully released with the overview, categories and how to apply, the jury model and what participants can gain from the Challenge with selection criteria for the awards.

Joining the event, participants were also deeply inspired during different small group discussions and valuable presentations delivered by key-note speakers. All key-note speakers were selected on their diverse backgrounds (commercial bank, NGO, consultancy firm, successful start-up model) as a company or organization in the aquaculture sector.

Join the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge

The Challenge is now open for online and offline applications from 6 December 2016 until 18 February 2017. Finalists will be invited to an intensive business plan boot camp and pitching event in June 2017. The best business plans will be awarded a cash investment for initiating the business plan.

See in which category you can participate during the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge and apply for the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge.

Read more about the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge here: visit the website

First Small-Scale Pangasius Farmers Achieve GLOBAL G.A.P. Aquaculture Group Certificate

GLOBALG.A.P. is proud to announce the first aquaculture group certification for small-scale pangasius farmers in Vietnam. This major step is part of the Public Private Partnership – Sustainable Pangasius Supply Chain Program (PPP-SPSP) in Tra Vinh province. Fresh Studio was contracted by GIZ and IDH to develop a GLOBALG.A.P. certified smallholder pangasius farmer group in Tra Vinh Province.

At the GLOBALG.A.P. workshop that took place at Vietfish on 6 August 2014, Mr. Truong The Van, the Vice Chairman of the Tra Vinh Fisheries Association, shared the challenges and benefits for small-scale producers of GLOBALG.A.P. Certification in general, and GLOBALG.A.P. Group Certification in particular. He specifically highlighted the cooperation promotion between farms. He also outlined how raising producer awareness of Good Aquaculture Practices and environmental protection benefits the aquaculture sector as a whole and consumers worldwide.

An added advantage of GLOBALG.A.P. Group Certification for small-scale producers in Vietnam in particular is that they immediately comply with the national government’s decree requiring all pangasius farming activities to be certified against sustainable certification systems by 31 December 2015.

This is a milestone in GLOBALG.A.P. Aquaculture Group Certification and a major step forward in the aquaculture sector. Small-scale aquaculture producers organized in groups with a shared Quality Management System can now reap the benefits of a long established and successful form of GLOBALG.A.P. Certification, one that GLOBALG.A.P. certified Fruit & Vegetable producers have benefited from for years.

“I congratulate the Tra Vinh Cooperative for pioneering GLOBALG.A.P. Aquaculture Group Certification in Vietnam and around the world,” said Kristian Moeller, GLOBALG.A.P. CEO. “ Almost 100,000 fruit & vegetable farmers, that’s more than 70 percent of our GLOBALG.A.P. certified producers worldwide, are organized in groups and covered under GLOBALG.A.P. Group Certification. The first group small-scale farmer certificate in aquaculture confirms that achieving our high integrity requirements for food safety and sustainability systems on farm via a group generates benefits to small-scale producers that can also be enjoyed by the aquaculture sector. The European retail markets have a particular interest in connecting to smaller producers to secure their sourcing. I am pleased to announce that the majority of our German retailers are introducing and implementing policies that require GLOBALG.A.P. Aquaculture Certification as a food safety baseline for their entire aquaculture range.”

— Kristian Moeller, GLOBALG.A.P. CEO.



Publication date: August 2014

This development is a result of the collaboration with project:

GLOBALG.A.P. group certification for small scale Pangasius farmers in Tra Vinh

Fresh Studio was contracted to develop a Globalgap certified smallholder pangasius farmer group in Tra Vinh Province …

Powering Aquaculture Progress; developing a R&D Aquaculture farm

Together with its projects partners, Fresh Studio is developing a Research & Development Aquaculture farm in Mekong delta. This innovative center is expected to bring the Vietnamese Aquaculture to the next level.


In Vietnam, the aquaculture sector started in the early 1960s with small scale extensive culture systems. The rapid growth of the sector during the last two decades has been a direct result of adapting intensive production practices mostly for exportable species. Vietnam’s aquaculture production increased from aroud 160,000 tons in 1990, to nearly 500,000 tons in 2000. After 2000, due to the development of the pangasius and shrimp industries, the aquaculture production has increased fivefold (just under 2.5 million tons).

Despite this enormous success of the aquaculture sector in Vietnam, there are quite a number of challenges in order to achieve a more sustainable growth of the sector. For example:

  • Reducing negative environmental impacts of farming, and especially water pollution and use of limited natural resources (fish meal)
  • Control diseases outbreak and limit the use of veterinary medicines and chemicals
  • Improve cost efficiency and productivity to be able to be competitive in the global market


Aiming to be major actors in the sector, Fresh Studio and projects partners (private sector and universities) are developing a Research & Development Aquaculture farm in the heart of Mekong Delta. At the start, researches area will be focused on innovations in:

  • Fish nutrition
  • Feed management
  • Farm management Farming methods, including introduction of re-circulation systems

Aiming to be major actor of innovations in the sector, Fresh Studio and project partners (private sector and universities) are developing a Research & Development Aquaculture farm in the heart of Mekong Delta. This farm will be made of over 100 farming units from 200 liters to 2000 square meters. At the start, the area of research will be focused on innovations in:

  • Fish nutrition and feed management
  • New technologies in farming systems, including introduction of re-circulation systems
  • Farm management

To ensure that the developed innovations will be adopted by the final user (the fish farmers), training and extension programs will be implemented, as well as demonstration trials all over the Mekong Delta with leading and influential farmers.

Architecture design of the R&D Aquaculture farm 

Expected outcome

This innovative Research & Development Aquaculture center is expected to bring the Vietnamese Aquaculture to the next level.

Fresh Studio speaks at international aquaculture workshop

PENANG – Fresh Studio have spent the last few years building an innovative seafood sourcing system mostly from small scale farmers in Vietnam to supply one of the largest wholesalers in the world.

Therefore, Nicolas Privet, Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager of Fresh Studio, was invited by The World Fish Center to join a workshop in Penang, (Malaysia) to share his experiences and knowledge in connecting small-scale farmers to markets.

This Workshop, part of a GIZ project ‘Pro Poor Business Models for Small Scale Aquaculture’ was intended to further help identify business models and finance options which could deliver positive development outcomes in the growing aquaculture sector. The workshop focused on:

  • Building understanding of the economic, social and environmental case for investments into small and medium-scale aquaculture enterprises;
  • Sharing knowledge of business examples and models for aquaculture investment, particularly among practitioners working with small and medium scale aquaculture and agriculture businesses;
  • Conducting a mapping of the financial and technical assistance landscape for small and medium scale aquaculture enterprises in Asia, identifying gaps and ways of filling those gaps;
  • Developing a shared vision among participants on follow-up action.

Also interesting to read:

Victor Benbakir: Discovering Vietnamese aquaculture sector

CAN THO – For this study I had to find a 6 months internship related to this main subjects and Fresh Studio has offered me the possibility to go in Vietnam to make this course.

I am Victor Benbakir a French student of 21 years old; I studied Bsc in sustainable aquaculture and quality management in the University of Savoie.

During my internship I was based in the fish department office in Can tho (one of the largest cities of the Mekong Delta). There the staff offered me the best welcome I ever had for all the internships I had made in my life and I was considered as a fully-fledged employee of the company.

The office in Can Tho was originally created for a continuous project for Metro (German supply company) which wanted to secures the fish chain supply for all the Metro stores in Vietnam. For this project Fresh Studio created a network of farmers, a standard named “Metro Requirement” and a fish transformation factory in Can Tho.

During the first month I had to get use to a totally different way to produce fish and learn the biology of the cultured local species. It was really a chock for me because I was use to work in modern farming system and it was kind a back in the time to see how the farmers grow the local species. I also didn’t know so much about these species (Snakehead fish, Knife fish, Climbing perch…) so it’s of course a plus for me now.

A part of my work was to go on the farms with the aquaculture consultants to check if the farmers respected the standard, give productions advices and also make some trainings for both farmers and consultants about fish farm management.

Then a new project came over in association with the De Heus Company (Dutch animal feed company), the creation of the first R&D services farm, and I have the opportunity to participate to it. I followed the creation of the farm and its design. I made some research with the consultants about all the devices needed for a R&D farm and used the data from the productions farms to find out what type of interesting research could be done on this farm.

Thanks to this internship I had a very concrete discovery of the aquaculture sector in the South Vietnam; it was also my first professional experience in a large company so it allows me to discover it. Furthermore I had the opportunity to work on a big project which is difficult when you’re only an intern in France or in Europe…

Moreover I visited many amazing places, meet a lot of very welcoming people and discovered the real Vietnam which is I think difficult to do when you only go for tourism here. I want to thanks Fresh Studio again for this great opportunity, I will remember this internship for a long time.

Also interesting to read: