Updated: Nov 7, 2021
When an opportunity comes to your door, you bask in it, then you choose to keep it or share it. Life without sharing is a widening gap of understanding of each other lives. Today we will be connecting you with our tiger prawn supplier for November’s Tiger Ebi Special. Buckle up and sit tight for an expectedly insightful journey to the way of Ben, a prawn farmer, as a humble intellectual to prawns breeding and savvy businessman of PrawnHub. This man courts it all.
Ben has been tiger prawn breeding for almost a decade now with much knowledge he has accumulated throughout his experience at the farm. His farm possesses a MYGAP Certification hence house-grown probiotics treating the prawns that do not involve chlorine or iodine or any type of antibiotics to breed the prawns. Ben produces approximately 3% of prawns in Malaysia and up to 10% for tiger prawns specifically.
We, me and Wan Qi (Dream Burger Social Media Assistant), arrived at the prawn estate and were greeted with much welcoming smile as we shook hands and hugged. We hopped onto his pick-up truck through an opening gate to a sight of endless amount of huge ponds to the far end. What caught our attention were the motorised paddlewheels aerators at 1.5hp each which help generate oxygen for the tiger prawns. Colours of the water from blue to green indicate the existing amount of algae that photosynthesises in the pond to produce oxygen as well. By nightfall algae halt their photosynthesis and the rest of all 8 aerators in the half a hectare huge ponds will be switched on and produce sufficient amount of oxygen for the prawns . Ben explained it as imagining 8 aircons in each pond. There are a total of 33 ponds on the farm. We jokingly commented the numbers of his electricity bill would blow people's minds.
Ben goes on that his tiger prawns are a species dominately grows in the Mozambique stream and babies prawns shipped in from a hatchery in Perak. They have consistent black hue rings on their body that makes them prized among suppliers and buyers.
Ben stopped the car and ushered us down to go up a bridge where he would always check up on the prawns' condition with a net. As he slowly pulled the net to bring the prawns up to show us, the anticipation slowly built in us. Water started splashing in all directions as the net poked out from the waters. We couldn't hold our excitement and in awe our shouts grew louder. Huge prawns were flipping their way out of the nets. Our eyes grew to the biggest they can as Ben bought the net onto of the bridge to show us the prawns and they were as big as our hands! Ben said it can be bigger and he sells all sizes of tiger prawns at Prawn Hub with ones bigger than in our hands at XL size. Ben offered us the two prawns we picked up to cook. Somehow looking at prawns flipping so lively makes the prawns feel very special if we had to eat it. Side note, never try to pick up a live prawn by its tail, bleeding from their thorns stabbing you awaits ...
We arrived at their reservoir running 2km long from front to the end of the farm. Seawater behind the farm is pumped into this reservoir and serves as a sediment area. The waters are to sit for 24 hours to allow the process of sedimentation to take place. The step is crucial in making sure heavy metals like ammonia and nitrate settle to the bottom and don’t get pumped into the ponds. Ben conducts microscopic inspections to see if there's any unfavourable bacterias or diseases before it is actually pumped into the ponds with fresh water for the tiger prawns. Carnivorous fish such as Sia Kap is particularly grown in the reservoir for biological control of foreign prawns or fishes that may carry diseases from the seawater.
Ben accumulates indexes for the categories of info they collect on each pond to indicate if they are eating well, if they will finish the designated feed amount today, estimated growth rate, survival rate, average daily growth, etc. This provides him the data of what is it about the pond that creates certain scenarios examples of what led to stunted growth of the tiger prawns and it could be due to genetic mutation from their parents. Another scenario would be if there are a slower growth rate of the tiger prawn are due to the excessive amount of males to females as male grow slower. An example of helpfulness in how these data assist the business is to cut down future losses. When prawn doesn't grow more than 0.18g per gram a day he loses money due to the growing existing cost of powering the pond with 8 aerators and the feeds for the prawns in comparison to their stagnating growing size.
Ben later showed us the tanks where he was growing Bacillus Subtillis which can often be found in fermented food like kefir soda or kimchi. This bacteria is mixed with their feed to the prawns to have a stronger gut system to out-compete bad bacteria. In another tank,
they grow Paraccocous Pantotrophus, a sulfur-reducing bacteria, to help decrease depositing sulfur from the bottom of the pond that is deadly for the prawns. He makes sure the bacteria is growing and multiplying consequently are not contaminated and culturing other unfavorable bacteria instead. This upkeep provides him to grow tiger prawns naturally and healthily.
Ben was a really accommodating tour guide and a professor in prawn caring. We found out that his studies background was in Biomedical Science in The U.K. that stems from his personal interest for biology. Shirley: Is it fun doing this every day? Ben: Oh! Definitely! Sometimes tiger prawns in a pond grow bigger than usual! And sometimes it's the other way around with many factors that influences them that makes my day interesting. We hope you found value in this journey we took with Ben. It was genuinely a great experience to have walked a day in the shoes of a prawn farmer we definitely found more intricacies that we wouldn't have anywhere else if it wasn't for Ben providing this opportunity. Now, what awaits you is tasting the month's November Special 'Tiger Ebi Burger and Tiger Ebi Sashimi' made possible from the knowledge, experience, and effort of Ben to supply us his tiger prawns!