In an exciting new venture, ESR has partnered with FAI Farms to launch the Tilapia Welfare Project in Egypt, leveraging innovative technology to improve the welfare of farmed tilapia, a staple in the region's large and ever-growing aquaculture industry.

Tech-driven Welfare: Improving Tilapia Farming Practices in Egypt

Despite Egypt's position as the leading tilapia producer in Africa and one of the top five producers globally, research conducted last year by ESR revealed a concerning gap: the concept of tilapia welfare (or even fish welfare or animal welfare more generally) was virtually unknown among Egyptian fish farmers and among most stakeholders involved in this nationally important economic activity. 

Given the scale of tilapia farming in the country, this oversight is particularly troubling. Addressing this issue head-on, ESR and FAI have come together with local partners to introduce a game-changing solution in the country – the FAI Tilapia Welfare App.

Introducing the FAI Tilapia Welfare App

The FAI Tilapia Welfare App is the cornerstone of this innovative project. Designed to be user-friendly and informative, the app provides farmers with a concrete tool for assessing and managing the welfare of their fishes and therefore the performance of their farm. It breaks down welfare assessment into simple, actionable steps, making it accessible to even those with limited prior knowledge of animal welfare concepts.

Using the app, farmers can easily record and monitor key parameters such as the quantity of feed given and the volume of water exchanged. This type of record-keeping is a novel approach in a region where most farmers do not have the habit of jotting down their practices and roughly estimate most parameters by eye. By maintaining detailed records, farmers can quickly identify the source of the issue when a problem does arise and work on finding an appropriate remedy, thereby enhancing the overall health and productivity of the tilapia populations in their ponds.

The Tilapia Welfare App has provided a convenient way of keeping track of the amount I am feeding when I don’t have my notebook to hand. It also gives simple instructions on measuring water quality which has encouraged me to do more regular testing.

– Mohamed Deif, tilapia farm owner and operator

To maximise the impact of the Tilapia Welfare Project, ESR and FAI have partnered with Aquavet Egypt and the University of Kafr El Sheikh to implement a comprehensive training of trainers (ToT) programme. This includes a series of online training courses, in-person workshops and on-farm practical sessions aimed at familiarising farm-facing aquaculture graduates with key concepts relating to fish welfare and how to use the FAI Tilapia Welfare App. This ToT approach has proven particularly effective for the Egyptian aquaculture context where there is a large number of farms spread over a wide geographic area. By providing trainers with the knowledge and ability to quickly train other trainers, the programme ensures that the FAI tools and best practices are disseminated widely across Egypt's aquaculture sector.

Positive Response and Next Steps

In the short time since the project launched, the engagement response has been overwhelmingly positive with over 150 farmers already using the FAI Tilapia Welfare App. Project leaders on the ground are now preparing to launch a large-scale assessment of 1,000 tilapia farms over the final months of the production cycle. The aim of this step is to demonstrate to farmers the ease with which app usage can be integrated into their daily farming practices and to get them into the habit of using it ahead of the next production cycle. These efforts are supported by in-person training sessions and stakeholder workshops, further establishing high welfare practices within Egypt's tilapia farming sector.

The knowledge and skills I acquired during the Tilapia Welfare Course have been directly applicable to my role, enabling me to implement more effective welfare practices in my aquaculture operations. From optimising water quality to implementing stress-reducing measures, the course has equipped me with the tools needed to enhance tilapia welfare and ultimately improve production outcomes

– Saif Abdellah, Aquatic specialist at a tilapia hatchery in the Egyptian Nile Delta

Looking Ahead: A Model for Africa

Improving the welfare of farmed tilapia yields benefits to both the animals through reduced suffering and the farmers through reduced mortality and better profitability making it a win-win solution. By leveraging Aquavet Egypt’s excellent personal relationships with farmers built over many years of veterinary care provision, and integrating that with the innovative tools and technology from FAI Farms, the Tilapia Welfare Project is setting new standards for animal husbandry in Egyptian aquaculture and in the process setting an example for the entire continent, in which it is regarded as a leader.

With the right support and continued commitment, Egypt has the potential to become a hub for training fish farmers across Africa in the importance of good animal welfare. In the medium-term, ESR aims to do this by hopefully setting up an African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) ‘Centre of Excellence’ on Fish Welfare in Egypt for sharing the lessons learned and the tools developed with the rest of the continent.

For more information on the FAI Tilapia Welfare App and to join this aquaculture welfare revolution, visit http://www.mytilapia.farm.