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Ahmed Al Dhaheri

Managing Director, Emirates AquaTech LLC

Dr. S.D. Gopakumar

General Manager, Al Jaraf Fisheries LLC

Aquaculture is at the forefront of efforts to promote food security and develop products for international consumption.

How does your expertise and position in the regional market allow you to reach consumers with varied tastes and expectations?

AHMED AL DHAHERI Most of our processes are automated, which is why we only have a few people involved in the production process that is spread over 50,000sqm. We have smoking facilities in-house as well so we can smoke our own fish and even provide for others. We have all our production and packaging facilities available on-site. We have successfully managed to acquire five different quality and safety certifications, which is rare for an aquafarm to have. We managed to do it all for the sake of having high-quality caviar and sturgeon meat for the public. With the capacity and technology we have, and the experience that we possess, we work hard to provide the right environment for the fish to live much like their natural habitat. We are happy that well-known Michelin Star chef Alain Ducasse has endorsed our product and said it is some of the best-farmed caviar he has ever had.

DR. S.D. GOPAKUMAR We are mainly focused on shrimp and we have developed a new system called multi-trophic utilization. Shrimp are always lying on the bottom of the water, so the column of water is not exploited. We have used some systems, called Cage systems, where we introduce fish. Now, both the layers are utilized, which is why it is called multi-trophic utilization. The shrimps are at the bottom of the pond and the fish are at the surface layer. With this new system we are planning to increase our capacity from 2 tons to 2.5 tons per day, which will include 80% shrimps and 20% fish. Regarding our contribution to the UAE market, if you take Abu Dhabi alone, we are catering for around 60% of the shrimp and altogether in the UAE, the amount is around 40%. One important factor is that if Al Jaraf Fisheries was not supplying the shrimp, 100% would need to be imported from different parts of the world to the UAE. We are the only company with indigenous production. From a business perspective, shrimp farming is an excellent opportunity in the UAE because nobody can catch shrimp from the sea—the UAE government banned shrimp fishing in the 1980s.

How does it feel to be a producer of UAE products that are being distributed worldwide?

AAD Whether it is the US, Europe, Asia, Australia or Australasia, it is a proud step forward to be able to go and prove that products that are being produced in Abu Dhabi, in an area where no one thought caviar could be produced, are being done well. It’s so exciting and fulfilling. We know that we are not only producing caviar for the economic benefits, but also for the environment. The sturgeon fish are an endangered species at a depletion stage. At the moment, we have over 300,000 fish from small to large ones, and that number is going to grow. People can recognize farms for fish as a good alternative to natural habitats, with the same taste and quality, maybe even better because the quality is controlled. With farmed caviar like ours, we can reach a stage where we can be producing on a daily basis without worrying about the fish being depleted.

How do you think the local aquaculture industry will evolve in the near future and what will the role of Al Jaraf Fisheries be?

SDG Very few players are coming into the aquaculture business. However, I think the problem is the availability of land. We are now planning to make a closed system rather than an open system that spreads over 100 hectares. Under a roof we can make a small facility within 2 to 5 hectares. All the constraints like weather conditions and temperature can be controlled and the intensive farming of shrimps and fish can be done with that type of facility. It is very popular in the US and Europe. The only issue is that it is an investment, and it is almost three times more expensive than an open-type of aquaculture system. I hope in the near future more people will come into the industry. We even have some locally adapted technology they can use to get started. We are not only producing, we are also trying to show the way for others. We have the technology and are ready to transfer it to other entrepreneurs so that the country can become self-sufficient rather than importing 90% of its seafood needs.



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