Disclaimer: Findings from Project Semai are limited to better understanding the challenges faced by smallholders in different agriculture subsectors. The information furnished in this website is for informational purposes only. The information should not be relied upon by any person to make an investment decision or for any other purposes.


Aquaculture smallholders surveyed breed, grow and harvest around 51 types of breeds and fishes across Malaysia

Some aquaculture products include Seabass (ikan Siakap), Catfish (ikan Keli), Tilapia fish, Silver Catfish (ikan Patin), narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel (ikan Tenggiri), seaweed and prawns. Smallholders represent ~23% of total farmers in this subsector, growing mainly Tilapia (31%), Silver Catfish (13%), and Catfish (11%) in this survey.

Key Demographics

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Saya memang suka kerja ini sebab saya minat inovasi dan genetik. Sambil bekerja, saya dapat belajar lebih mendalam tentang kedua-duanya. Saya juga suka kerana bidang ini boleh pergi lebih jauh dan banyak potensi. Ia juga akan membantu untuk memastikan keterjaminan makanan dalam negara."

I’m really interested in innovation and genetics, so while I’m working I can learn more about these things. I see potential in aquaculture to expand even further. On top of that, I can contribute towards strengthening our country’s food security.


Catfish breeder, Penang


Aquaculture smallholders are confronted with a sea of challenges, namely increasing input prices, climate impact and pest attacks

Input prices, climate change, and pest attacks are among the key challenges aquaculture smallholders face.

89% of smallholders represented a high increase in animal feed, while 48% of smallholders indicated a high rise in animal breeds for aquaculture.

Besides that, 68% of smallholders also indicated that they experience low productivity.

This may also be attributed by the complexity of aquaculture farming, which requires a high level of precision to maximise productivity.

Key Challenges for Aquaculture sector

Climate change affects water temperature, posing a significant threat to aquaculture smallholders

Fluctuating climate events such as changes in water temperature, annual precipitation, water stratification, and the shift of rainy and dry seasons change aquaculture activities' physiological, ecological, and operational aspects. Changes in temperature and precipitation are the major causes of the failure of pond aquaculture production [1].

This may lead to a significant loss in operations costs as the life cycle of fish breeding (from breed to mature fish) may be impacted by climate change.

Percentage of smallholders that are impacted by changes in temperature, rainfall and climate disasters


[1] Hamdan R et.al, ‘Climate change effects on Aquaculture Production Performance in Malaysia’, International Journal of Business and Society, Vol. 16 No. 3, 2015, 364 - 385, accessed on 26 June 2023.

Most smallholders represent that they are not equipped to manage climate change effects

Climate change also causes disease outbreaks in aquaculture products such as fish and prawns

Smallholders from the Eastern Semenanjung are the most affected by both climate change and pest attacks (diseases and infections).

Climate events such as temperature rise, heavy rainfall, flood, and water currents that cause sediments and waste flows can contribute to disease infections, fish deaths, and damaged cages [1].


[1] Hamdan R et.al, ‘Climate change effects on Aquaculture Production Performance in Malaysia’, International Journal of Business and Society, Vol. 16 No. 3, 2015, 364 - 385, accessed on 26 June 2023.

Large opportunity to uplift and upskill aquaculture subsector via training

Top training programmes that smallholders would like to attend are

farm management, new farming techniques, and marketing and distribution.

In this survey, less than 11% of smallholders have attended training for new farming techniques and new farming products. There is high demand for various aquaculture products, such as fish breeds.

For current fish breeder farmers, expanding their breeding business requires new processes and a lot of trial and error.

Smallholders represented that there are currently no existing guidelines for this process. Therefore, this process is time-consuming and requires much effort and knowledge to venture into.

Percentage of smallholders that have attended and would like to attend trainings and courses

Lack Research and Development (R&D) in aquaculture to tackle productivity issues

Pembenihan ini adalah satu proses yang baru. Oleh itu, kita akan mencari kaedah-kaedah atau teknik melalui percubaan dan kesilapan (trial and error). Memang meletihkan dan membebankan, tetapi kita dapat belajar daripada kesilapan dan seterusnya menguasai teknik yang betul, untuk kita menjalankan proses pembenihan tersebut.”

Fish breeding for us is a new process. So we’ll develop the methods with trial and error, and from that we can find the right techniques to breed the fish. It is quite an arduous and tiring task.


Catfish breeder, Penang


Harapan saya adalah untuk membantu penternak-penternak baru dari segi menambah ilmu, menambah pendapatan isi rumah. Saya harap dapat membantu mereka dari segi ekonomi dan penternakan.”

My hope is to help new farmers to gain knowledge and income for their families. I wish to aid them in terms of economy and the farming know-hows


Catfish breeder, Penang

Saya memang berhajat untuk memperkembangkan ternakan ikan ini supaya akan membekalkan (ikan) kepada orang ramai. Saya mahu buat lebih banyak ikan supaya membekalkan kepada hotel-hotel pelancongan di tempat-tempat yang berkenaan.”

I really wish to expand my fish farm so that I can provide for other people. I want to produce more fish so that I will be able to supply fish for hotels in the tourism industry.


Freshwater fish farmer, Penang

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