This study will rigorously assess the costs and benefits of commercial and/or novel PHPs for small-scale intensive farmers under laboratory and on-farm conditions. Results gained will improve farmer profitability through health management advice and improved regulation of PHPs.
The project aims (i) to improve profitability of intensifying smallholder farmers directly: through improved prophylactic health management capacity and indirectly through development of standardized assessment procedures and improved regulation of commercial PHPs (ii) to develop internal capacity to support future research on PHP efficacy, regulation and economic benefit
Rapidly growing demand for seafood products for domestic and export markets is driving intensification of aquaculture sectors dominated by small-holders in much of Asia. Ensuring effective health management has become the single most important challenge for sustainable intensification of the smallholder sector just as restrictions on antibiotic use are being imposed. Farmers are increasingly dependent on a proliferating range of prophylactic products (including pre and probiotics), often of uncertain provenance & efficacy. Furthermore, the emergent markets for these products lack appropriate regulatory frameworks and the economic burden of unjustified claims is likely to fall most heavily on small-holders. An independent cost-benefit assessment of the efficacy, costs and benefits of such products is urgently required. Working across a range of major commodity farmed species and system types, the project will also assess the potential for novel low-cost alternatives to contribute to improved animal health and profitability of intensified smallholder operations.
Impact Pathways
1. Value Chain Analysis: To assess PHP value-chain relations in terms of governance (statutory and market) and power-relations within the supply chain on risks, costs and rewards to participants and to assess possible value-chain up-grading options through action-research. 2. PHP Inventory/ Typology: To develop an inventory and typology of major prophylactic health product (PHP) groups based on: microbiological assessment of active ingredients, market characteristics (product claims, availability, cost, certification etc.), farmer usage patterns and their opinion on product efficacy. 3. Farmer Commercial PHP Trials: Based on outcomes of objectives 1 and 2, to assess efficacy and cost-benefit of selected commercial PHPs compared to C:N optimized fertilized controls, through action research with farmers representative of a range of commercially important small-scale farming system and species types. Assessment of secondary organoleptic (benefits) in prevention of off-flavours. 4. Farmer Novel PHP Trials: To assess the safety and efficacy of a range of novel PHPs including glycan decoys, saponins and low-cost locally available plants extracts under laboratory and field conditions through further farmer action-research. 5. Internal capacity building: through implementation of high quality face to face and virtual mentoring partnerships between junior and senior staff across the participating research consortium institutions.
Internvention Strategies
Aquaculture in India and Bangladesh is traditionally centred on semi-intensive carp polyculture in fertilised ponds. Recently, supply deficits, and rural and urban demand, have stimulated rapid growth of more intensive pond monoculture of exotic tilapias and Pangasius catfish. In all cases, intensification has resulted in increased disease losses associated with a range of pathogens. Similarly, in southern Bangladesh, attempts to intensify a shrimp export sector dominated by more than 250,000 smallholders have been constrained by disease outbreaks. In India semi-intensive and some intensive production was supported through introduction of exotic L. vannamei (in 2009). Finally, India and Bangladesh are amongst the few major shrimp growing countries that remain unaffected by the Early Mortality Syndrome shrimp pandemic (EMS of AHPND); thus there is an urgent need for further research on efficacious PHPs. Antibiotic use for disease control and growth promotion is increasingly constrained by spread of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) pathogens, whilst detection of antibiotic (and other chemotherapeutic) residues in shrimps and fish can lead to sector-wide export bans. Within this context, PHPs have become an increasingly important method of disease control. Prophylactic health products include probiotics, live microbial feed supplements that beneficially affect the host by improving the intestinal microbial balance . Health and growth promoting effects of these and other novel complementary treatments (prebiotics, synbiotics, phytobiotics, functional dietary supplements, etc.) have rapidly become the focus for considerable research. Only one product, Lallemand’s ‘Bactocell’ has had its health and growth claims independently endorsed and authorised for use as an aquaculture feed additive in the EU by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Elsewhere end-users must accept ‘self-claims’. There is a plethora of un-validated PHPs on the market purporting to promote health, stimulate immune vigour and protect fish and shellfish against infection. Few have been subject to large-scale random controlled trials (RCT) and there is poor regulation of the quality, efficacy, and marketing of these agents.