Sustainable prawn farming

Quality and sustainability are central to the TotalFood Processing ethos. The company works directly with carefully selected prawn farmers from the southwest coastal districts of Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat. By cutting out the middlemen and other intermediaries it is able to control quality and keep the supply chain streamlined.

Farmers are in turn supported with advice on best practice, help with buying pathogen-free (SPF) larvae, regular water quality spot-checks, and soil and shrimp health tests, thereby improving their overall pond infrastructure. Their families are even supplied with fresh drinking water from TotalFood’s own water treatment plant.
Partnering with prawn farmers is the basis for maintaining a sustainable supply chain. The factory doubles as a centre of aquaculture excellence, providing a training and ideas-sharing hub for local suppliers. It is supported by experienced academics from Khulna University and the Bangladesh Department of Fisheries. A well-equipped research and development department straddles this and the company’s new product development programmes, working closely with clients on white label retail lines and products tailored to their specific requirements.

Prawn farming methods

TotalFood obtains its prawns from several sources:

Extensive farming: 90% of Bangladeshi prawns are sourced using this method. Farms are located adjacent to the Sundarbans mangrove forest (the forest itself is a protected region). Feeding is completely (100%) natural, with no human intervention. Harvesting is synchronised with the new and full lunar cycles as this is when the mature prawns rise to the surface, making them easier to catch. The black tiger and fresh water prawns farmed this way are of superb quality. To maintain this it is vital that the supply and processing chain that follows is quick, efficient and hygienic.

Cluster farming: A comparatively new development that involves a group of small farmers (i.e. those that only have one or two small ponds within an acre of land) sharing resources to improve quality and production while retaining the principle of minimal human intervention. Prawns are only harvested upon reaching maturity. TotalFood is keen to encourage this approach as it has many knock-on benefits within the local community. The company is therefore working closely with Monterey Bay Aquarium to improve the conditions and practices adopted by these small-scale aquafarmers.

Semi-intensive farming: Similar in concept the ‘western’ fish farming techniques. Semi-intensive farming involves 20% natural feeding and 80% human intervention. Prawns are fed 4-5 times a day. Prawn size varies depending on the farm and timing of the harvest.

Sea catch: Applies to harina prawns and sea fish. TotalFood’s buyers only source marine catch from reputable sellers with an established track record.

Monterey Bay Aquarium sustainability project

Aquaculture is vital in the battle to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks and, as the world population grows, its importance will only increase. TotalFood is collaborating closely with California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium on its Act for the Oceans campaign to raise aquaculture standards generally, and cluster farming standards specifically within this key region. No other Bangladeshi seafood processor is similarly engaged.
Act for the Oceans is committed to helping consumers, businesses and governments transform how seafood is produced — protecting fish populations, their habitats and the communities that rely on them. It will conduct routine spot-checks on TotalFood’s processing plant and the prawn farms that supply it to monitor livestock welfare, pollution levels and rearing techniques.

Making a difference

TotalFood Processing plays an active role in building, maintaining and supporting the communities in which it operates. Its targeted charitable programmes include:

  • Free lunch and canteen facilities for all factory workers;
  • The supply of fresh, clean drinking water to local prawn farmers and their families;
  • Help towards the provision of medical equipment (including ICU) to Khulna Shishu (Children’s) Hospital;
  • Donations to Khulna local orphanage (where one of TotalFood’s directors is also a committee member);
  • Contributions towards the maintenance and upkeep of local religious temples; and
  • The creation of a flower garden at Khudir Bottola, the entry point to Khulna City.