Profesor Dr Yeong Yik Sung.

UNIVERSITI Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s Tianjin University of Science and Technology (TUST) to kick off a research collaboration on Artemia, which is widely used in the aquaculture industry.

The move is expected to position UMT as a front-runner in the research and production of Artemia in Malaysia, thus enabling the country to tap into the lucrative global Artemia market.

UMT vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Nor Aieni Mokhtar said research in the field of Artemia was important to the aquaculture industry as the species of zooplankton was an aquatic model organism widely used in studies of the crustacean immune system, heavy metal toxicity, and cancer among others.

“It is hoped that through the cooperation between UMT and TUST, the Artemia culture industry will be well developed in Malaysia,” she said.

Artemia is a zooplankton that is the main food for shrimps, seafood, freshwater fish, crustaceans and other marine animals. It is widely used worldwide reaching 3,000 metric tonnes a year with a value of more than US$350 million (RM 1.5 billion).

“UMT has also approved a RM1.6 million Translational Research Fund to construct an Artemia hatchery at UMT that supports knowledge transfer activities to the local community for Artemia culture techniques.

“It is one of UMT’s initiatives to introduce the aquaculture industry in Malaysia and is one of UMT’s revenue generation projects,” said Nor Aieni.

The project was expected to begin after the completion of the UMT hatchery at UMT by year end.

UMT’s Institute of Marine Biotechnology (IMB) director Professor Dr Yeong Yik Sung said the research collaboration between the two universities would be conducted by IMB and the Asian Regional Artemia Reference Centre (ARARC) at TUST.

“This research collaboration is important as it will help IMB increase the number of research publications through international cooperation and open new research opportunities for other fields such as ocean engineering and marine science studies,” he said.

Yeong said the MoU covered a period of five years, and UMT and TUST would collaborate in the aspect of Artemia cysts and biomass research and development (R&D), and production.

“Cysts production has never been conducted in Malaysia. With this collaboration, we hope that we could produce super small Artemia for use in aquaculture,” he said.

“With the current available local experts and assistance from Emeritus Professor Dr Patrick Sorgeloos from Ghent University, Belgium, who is a world renowned Artemia expert (and also UMT’s Professiorial chair of Sultan Mizan), plus the collaboration from ARARC, UMT shall be the first to explore cysts production in Malaysia.

“The success in Artemia cysts production will allow Malaysia to tap into the global Artemia industry, this way earning Malaysia good reputation and market shares.”

On the hatchery, Yeong said its focus would be to produce Artemia biomass and promote the activity of cysts production and R&D.

“As part of a community project, we shall teach and provide training to communities around Kuala Nerus in Terengganu to culture and produce Artemia. We have very close links with local private companies, like Greeny Aquaculture Sdn Bhd in Johor, to promote the sales of our product, locally or internationally. A satellite facility to maintain and pack Artemia have been jointly set up there.”

On products that UMT was ready to roll out, Yeong said UMT had outlined three Artemia products to be marketed: live Artemia, frozen Artemia and freezed dried Artemia for use in aquaculture.

“We will also explore the use of Artemia as human food, like sushi.”

At the signing ceremony in Tianjin, UMT was represented by Nor Aieni, while TUST was represented by its deputy president, Professor Dr Li Zhanyong.