Berjaya Aquaculture, a vertical mud crab farm based in Tutong, is working towards establishing a strong foundation for mud crab aquaculture in the sultanate, hoping to ultimately build a strong ecosystem that would help diversify the country’s exports.
The local company, which was founded in 2018, was never meant to be just a commercial farm that utilises recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) vertical mud crab farming boxes, even though it is one of the first of its kind in the sultanate.
“I always envisioned Berjaya Aquaculture to become a centre of excellence, especially for mud crab trading, considering its vast potential within the local aquaculture industry,” said CEO Hj Jamain Hj Julaihi, in an interview with The Bruneian.
From the get-go, Berjaya Aquaculture started its commercial operation while also conducting vertical mud crab farming courses for the public, equipping participants with the basics of a vertical aquaculture farm as well as its profitability, risks and the existing supply chain.
According to the CEO, the courses have been well received, even attracting participants from other states in Borneo, who are intrigued by the concept of urban mud crab farming, especially when utilising the RAS farming boxes.
Essentially the RAS system operates by filtering water from the mud crab boxes, to be reused with a continuous filtration system that keeps the water clean and ensures that the salinity levels meet the specific requirements.
Berjaya Aquaculture has about a thousand mud crab farm boxes, each houses two crabs – albeit separated, to prevent cannibalism – and is able to produce about 500 kilogrammes of mud crabs per month, explained Hj Jamain.
However, taking into account the urban mud crab farming scene in Brunei is still in its infancy stage, the mud crabs produced by the company are caught from the wild, before they are stored in the vertical boxes for fattening and to be held for stock during the crabs’ off-season.
“The ecosystem for the industry is not there yet, which is part of the reason why we are organising these training courses, we’re trying to build the ecosystem from the ground up, starting by adding more urban crab farmers in the sultanate,” he added.
With two years of full commercial operation under their belt, Hj Jamain believed that the vertical mud crab farm can be done at home and would not cause any problems for those living in residential areas.
“This new way of aquaculture farming has the potential to create jobs, and we have seen the demand for mud crabs have increased not only in the country but also the Asian region, especially when you consider the huge seafood demand of China,” he continued.
The goal for the entrepreneur is to ultimately generate enough interest for local urban crab farming that would eventually invite important players within its supply chain such as crablet hatcheries, in order for a strong and sustainable ecosystem to be established.
A participant of the course, Siti Anisah Hj Yussof said that although Berjaya Aquaculture specialises in mud crab farming, the RAS farming boxes can actually be diverse in its application.
She expressed her commitment to understanding the RAS system, hoping the same system would open opportunities to farm other high-quality crustaceans like lobster, while also ensuring the nation can be secure, at least from a seafood production aspect.
This sentiment was shared by Major (U) Razanol Hardi Abd Razak, another participant of the training course, who took part in it as a possible business option after his retirement in the military.
“In my point of view, especially with Brunei being a coastal country, there is always a market for this product. Furthermore, if we can ensure efficient production using this aquaculture system, we can actually help protect the species’ numbers in the wild.
“Though we can understand that fishermen need to earn a living, but sometimes their desperation can cause irreversible impact towards wildlife, in the mud crabs’ case, it’s their population distribution in the wild,” added the 44-year-old.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN