SwitchMed programme: improving the performance of aquaculture in Tunisia

An analysis of the aquaculture value chain in Tunisia has highlighted the need to improve aquaculture performance and optimise feed management. These analyses, carried out in a pilot project in Monastir as part of the second phase of the "SwitchMed" initiative in Tunisia, revealed an excessive use of fish feed. Performance in aquaculture is measured by a metric known as "feed conversion ratio", which ranges between 1.9 kg and 2.5 kg, while the international benchmark is 1.6 kg. "In this project, we used various technologies to ensure proper food distribution in the cages, reduce fish mortality and increase their growth," explained Benoit Wuatelet, Blue Economy team leader at the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), during a workshop on "Innovation and Circularity in Tunisian Aquaculture" on Tuesday. These technologies mainly involve artificial intelligence, using image analysis to identify fish size and accurately measure feed quantities, and remote communication via 4G antennas. The pilot project, which ends in June 2024 and was carried out in collaboration with the private sector, has demonstrated the contribution of innovative and intelligent technologies to improving the economic performance of the aquaculture sector, stressed Mohamed Salah Azaza, director of the National Institute for Research and Technologies of the Sea (INSTM). According to him, these technologies can help reduce the feed conversion ratio (food use and management), which accounts for 60% of aquaculture production costs in Tunisia. The aim is also to significantly reduce the environmental impact, increase the competitiveness of companies and change the perception of consumers, environmental organisations and civil society regarding the image of the aquaculture sector in the country. In Tunisia, around thirty companies are involved in aquaculture, 20 of which specialise in marine fish farming. Exports of aquaculture products range from 10% to 15% of national production, reaching 21,000 tonnes in 2022. The aim is to increase production to 56,000 tonnes by 2030, targeting the European Union (EU), the Gulf countries and Canada. Esma Bounouh, in charge of the Sustainable Development Support Programme for Agriculture and Artisanal Fishing in Tunisia (ADAPT) at the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), spoke about a pound 57 million credit line managed by the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) and financial institutions as part of a programme to support the private sector and financial inclusion in agriculture and the social economy (PRASOC). Nearly TND 119 million has already been disbursed, financing 280 projects in the agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors and creating 4,000 jobs. Fiscal and financial incentives in the form of grants (ranging from 15% to 50% of investment costs) are also provided. Their annual value is estimated at an average of TND 20 million, according to the Central Director of Investment Incentives at the Agricultural Investment Promotion Agency (APIA). The Switch Med program me in Tunisia focuses on two sectors: textiles and the blue economy, according to UNIDO's representative in Tunisia, Lassaad Ben Hassine. For textiles and clothing, the aim is to support the private sector by promoting the circular economy, while for the blue economy, the aim is to increase the sustainability of the seafood value chain in Tunisia. Aquaculture production has increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2006 to 21,000 tonnes in 2022, accounting for between 3% and 13% of national fisheries production. In terms of value, production will increase from TND 41 million in 2006 to TND 329 million in 2022, thanks to the implementation of offshore cage fish farming projects. A dozen Tunisian and foreign companies from Denmark, Norway, Greece, Malta, France and Spain will meet with around fifteen aquaculturists to exchange innovative solutions in the field of aquaculture, announced Antonino Trimarchi, SwitchMed/UNIDO programme coordinator for Tunisia and Morocco. SwitchMed is a programme launched by the European Un ion (EU) in eight Mediterranean countries, including Tunisia, to stimulate the creation of new business opportunities and jobs while reducing the environmental impact of existing economic activities in the southern Mediterranean. Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

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