Nearly 50% of all fish we consume is farmed fish. Aquaculture is an important source of high protein food for people worldwide. For aquaculture to become a sustainable option for ensuring food security: governance, disease, feed and seed issues must be tackled. 

IDH aims to improve the sustainability of the aquaculture sector through tackling the following four bottlenecks. First, the sector seems to be restricted by a lack of central governance. The aquaculture sector is diverse – compare a smallholder Indonesian shrimp farmer with a large-scale Norwegian salmon producer- and the presence of a variety of certification schemes and government regulations add to this fragmentation.

Second, the main supply chain risks are related to health management. It is not uncommon that a disease outbreak hits the entire sector of a country. Disease risks may be avoided through cooperation among neighbors and through a data-driven approach. Neighboring farmers that share the same water resources do not by definition cooperate, although they might influence one another’s fish health through the water. And data that are already available within the supply chain that might hint towards the cause of a disease, are not always used to develop and adjust effective production practices.

Third, fish feed is not always sustainable. The feed can have a negative impact since an ingredient might be related to for example illegality, such as illegal labor practices; illegal caught wild fish or illegally cut rain forests.

And lastly, systemic constraints  in the sub-Saharan aquaculture sector hinder investments that could unlock the production potential.

IDH aims to improve the sustainability of the aquaculture with regard to these issues through the interventions of the aquaculture program.

Listen to our podcast

Relevant SDGs

  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Life Below Water
  • Partnerships for the Goals
Impact claims

Impact claim 1: IDH will contribute to improving the sector’s risk level by supporting a global, multi-stakeholder platform leading to a reduction in adverse environmental aquaculture farm practices by 2020. The platform will operate through the development and adoption of sourcing guidelines (including specific feed and health management best practices) for aquaculture certification and improvement models.

Impact claim 2: IDH will contribute to the development of a proof of concept for improved on-farm feed and disease risk mitigation strategies and market access. We will do this by supporting the implementation of responsible feed and health management best practices in the focus countries (Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Ecuador). The target by 2020 is to increase the sustainability of 1.5 million metric tons of aqua feed.

Impact claim 3: IDH will trigger investments in critical bottlenecks (availability, affordability and quality of feed and seed supply) to aquaculture production in Africa with a focus on responsible health and feed management practices (as defined under impact claim 2) in Ghana by 2020.

A global multi-stakeholder platform

There are multiple initiatives aimed at improving the sustainability of the aquaculture sector. However, the vast amount of certification and benchmarking schemes, environmental awareness programs and sustainability campaigns seem to have a counterproductive result. The aquaculture sector is fragmented and several initiatives are addressing similar issues simultaneously, frequently resulting in uncoordinated and fragmented intervention strategies. This leads to the lack of coordination within the sector as to identify priorities, align resources and harmonize response to different kinds of issues.

IDH aims to address this fragmentation of the aquaculture sector through the identification and support of a demand-driven, global, multi-stakeholder platform. Such a global platform should focus on the key issues in the sector. Governance by a global platform will result in improved sector governance and the alignment of intervention strategies. Ideally this global platform will align with national platforms (if applicable) to increase the scope and relevance of the actions of this global platform. This will prevail upon accelerated change to a more sustainable global aquaculture sector.

Health and feed management

Health and disease management is, arguably, the most critical challenge the aquaculture sector faces. Diseases have always challenged the development of the sector. Although the sector generally bounces back after an outbreak and considerable progress has been made in pathogen and disease detection, it does not seem to be any more prepared to deal with diseases than it was two decades ago. In fact, the Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) outbreaks in shrimp in Asia and Latin America have led to crop failures for several hundred thousand producers, resulting in global price and supply volatility of farmed shrimp. In sub-sectors that are not affected by major disease outbreaks the volatility in survival ranges in the 2-digit percentage figures.

Agrochemicals (e.g. antibiotics) use is still prevalent in large segments of the industry, arguably driven by a lack of knowledge on the application and effectiveness of such treatments against the emerging problems. This often leads to misuse of these substances, which may affect food safety and market access of aquaculture products. As food safety is the top priority for seafood buyers, aquatic animal health management is a critical issue to address.

A data-driven health and feed performance approach is being developed to improve the overall farm efficiency through reduced mortality and disease risk and improved feed conversion. This approach will eventually support farmers in implementing better management practices and improving the resilience of the aquaculture sector.

IDH aims to contribute to the implementation of better management practices by facilitating the collection and analyses of health and feed data. The data-driven health and feed performance approach will be piloted through co-invested projects. When the lessons learnt from analyzing health and feed data are implemented, the use of resources will be more efficient thus relieving some of the stress aquaculture poses on the environment.

Zonal management

Where possible the improvement of health and feed management will be implemented through zonal management. Zonal management relates to the collaborative efforts of producers that share the same (water) resources. IDH will pilot the zonal management approach in geographies where farmers are willing to collaborate in managing resources and information to reduce disease risks. The local government and other resource users in these pilot zones should be prepared to collaborate in developing policies that support the farmers’ efforts.


The aquaculture supply chain consists of fragmented suppliers from many different countries. NGO’s and consumers demand more environmental and social sustainability. Supply chain actors have often relied on certification to endorse the sustainability claims, although the integrity of certification schemes’ chain of custody is sometimes questioned. In addition, traceability is often only extended to the farm level, leaving risks associated with the farm’s inputs often unaddressed. The demand for more traceability and transparency is strongly driven by US and EU retailers, who have had to deal with considerable challenges to their brand reputation because of practices occurring in boats fishing for aquaculture feed ingredients.

IDH will support collaborative efforts to increase and scale up traceability and transparency as a key enabler to mitigate risks with regard to labor and marine overexploitation. For this purpose, IDH will focus on Thailand, as labor risks within the EU and US shrimp supply chains have been identified here. IDH will closely collaborate with the Seafood Task Force to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Thailand.

Private sector investments in Ghana

Sub- Saharan Africa is the fastest growing part of the world, where the human population will likely increase with 1.2 billion people this century. Farmed fish is a potentially very sustainable source of animal proteins for this growing world population, but the aquaculture sector is still young and it has its challenges. To strengthen its contribution to food security the sector needs to scale-up and commercialize to increase availability and affordability of the proteins delivered to the domestic markets. Throughout the Sub-Saharan region, sector growth is hampered by poor quality inputs (feed and seed) which affects efficiency of production, quality and pricing of the final product.

IDH aims to contribute to growth of the aquaculture sector in Sub-Saharan Africa by triggering private sector investments in bottlenecks for growth in this region. For this purpose, tilapia farmers in Ghana will be the focus group. Here IDH will intervene to improve farming practices and minimize the bottlenecks for sustainable development of the aquaculture sector. The interventions are aimed at triggering investments such as the construction of a large aquaculture feed mill. These kinds of investment will leverage capacity building activities for local raw material sourcing and stimulate dissemination of health and feed practices to tilapia farmers. The availability of good quality breeds and fingerlings will need to be addressed in collaboration with the (local) authorities and research institutes. Performance testing of various tilapia breeds and environmental impact assessments need to be performed to allow for well-informed and transparent decision making on the allowance of different strains of tilapia.

The ASC Responsible Feed Project

In the past years, the diet of farmed fish has caused some discussion. Fish feed is made up of fish meal and soy (among other ingredients), both of which have a major impact on the environmental footprint of aquaculture. Due to the lack of options for responsibly sourced fish feed, farming fish responsibly without depleting natural resources still is a challenge. To address this challenge, IDH supports the ASC Responsible Feed Project. In this project a standard for responsible aquaculture feed is being developed in collaboration with different stakeholders within the feed branch. Through supporting this project IDH aims to improve responsibility of the aquaculture sector at one of the most basic levels.

Projects in Aquaculture

Facts & Figures

  • Private sector (sustainability) investments (in million euro)

    Target 2020 13.65
    Target 2017 2
    Results 2017 1.64
  • Number of producers/workers/community members trained

    Target 2020 30.000
    Target 2017 1.000
    Results 2017 2.377
  • Number of hectares where trained practices are applied

    Target 2020 25.000
    Target 2017 4.000
    Results 2017 16.972


Initiatives in Aquaculture


Title Type Year
Application Template FIT Fund Roadmap 2017
FIT Fund Prospectus Roadmap 2017
Aquaculture Infographic Factsheet 2017
Aquaculture Program Summary Factsheet 2017

Contact us for more information

Flavio Corsin

Director - Aquaculture, Agrochemicals

+31 (0)6 1140 4008

Feed conversion rates of fish are lower than that of cattle because fish floats and cattle walks making responsibly farmed fish a great source of high protein food


Your browser is too old to optimally experience this website. Upgrade your browser to improve your experience.