Interview Eric Bink – Til-Aqua

Eliminating hormone use: strengthening tilapia and sector

Eric Bink, owner of Til-Aqua International, is a pioneer in producing all-male Tilapia without the use of hormones. Convinced that the best Tilapia can only be produced without hormones or other interventions, he has been developing YY strains in Silver and Red tilapia since the 1990’s. Eric and his team have been perfecting and exporting their YY technology for years.

Growing awareness

Til-Aqua’s all-male (99,7%) Silver line fry is exported to various countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Central America. In dealing with these countries, Eric Bink notices that the discussion regarding the use of hormones is growing stronger in the aquaculture industry. “The use of hormones creates a fragile immune system and often results in disease and mortality. The production losses that farmers have to deal with are extreme – and completely unnecessary. Sadly, the use of testosterone is ingrained in the tilapia industry, especially in Asia. But things are changing. Public opinion is shifting, not only in western society. The government of Saudi Arabia, for example, has officially forbidden the use of hormones in fish production. The demand for naturally produced Tilapia in countries in Africa and Central America is also increasing.”

Expert knowledge of genetics

Their knowledge of genetics has turned Til-Aqua into the most experienced partner worldwide for tilapia farmers wanting to move towards hormone-free production and reduction of fish disease and mortality. Eric Bink explains how Til-Aqua can add value to an organization: “Farmers wanting to make the switch often have insufficient knowledge of genetics, even the ones producing over 500.000 fingerlings per year. This is where we can make a difference. We provide farmers with longstanding knowledge of genetics ànd onsite training. Additionally, when import restrictions have been lifted in the farmer’s country, we can deliver our natural YY males and cross them with strong local female lines for optimal quality production.”

Guaranteed mortality rate <5%

Production manager Jeroen Schuphof addresses the production losses that fish farmers all over the world are dealing with: “It has almost become an acceptable part of producing tilapia. But nothing is further from the truth. There is so much to gain from using strong genetic material. With proper onsite training we can cut back production losses with 50%. And if we can provide our customers with our own YY males, we can guarantee a mortality rate of <5% within a few production cycles.”

Export and import permits

Exporting YY males sometimes requires permits in both countries – and a lot of patience. Aquatic veterinarian Hanneke van den Dop is Til-Aqua’s trump card when it comes to this issue: “I worked as a senior inspector for the Dutch government for many years, so I know the road to obtaining the required permits in the Netherlands, and, if desired, I can guide farmers abroad in getting theirs. Our customers find this a huge benefit. It helps them to get started.”

Tilapia in the future

What does the future hold for tilapia farmers? Eric Bink has an idealistic yet realistic answer: “I strongly believe in elevating the quality of this fish species by using strong, hormone-free starting material. Slowly but gradually, a change is taking place in the tilapia farming sector. Hormones are – and should be – on their way out. It might not happen in my lifetime, but it will happen.”

> DAE member page Til-Aqua International

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