Friday, 12 July 2013

FISHING FOR PROFIT



A little social innovation can help reduce the cost of feeding for aquaculture practitioners. There is huge profit to be made in fish farming due to its high demand but the steep cost of feed is a major worry for entrepreneurs venturing into this business. I experienced this first hand managing a fish pond as a part-time job during my NYSC year. Like most young people fishing for a little extra cash would do, I had to get innovative.

The farm specialized in catfish production but also had poultry on site. The pond I managed had a stock of approximately 2,100 pieces. The benchmark set for table sized catfish here was 1.5 kg. Therefore once the fish got to the benchmarked weight, they were ready to be sold off to prospective clients. I was responsible for designing the feeding regimen, feeding process, taking records of weights, keeping track of medications and vaccinations, monitoring water levels/quality and procurement of feed and other needed materials. I had a two man staff – one IT student from Federal University of Technology, Minna and a teenager from Katsina who lived in the village next to the farm and had made quite a reputation for himself as a reliable fish harvesting expert. He earned his living by been contracted on a daily basis by the different farms around our site. After watching him work for us on a contract capacity, We had to hire him.



I noticed early that a huge chunk of my weekly budget was spent on purchase of feeds. Catfish are notorious for their appetite and though they can constantly consume any feed chucked into their pond, I was working on the strict model that aimed for a 100% feed conversion ratio (FCR) ± 5% i.e. for a table sized fish of 1.5 kg, it would have consumed 1.5kg of feed. Therefore when we operated under optimum conditions, it would require 3,150 kg of feed to take our juveniles to table size catfish. The brand of feed used on the farm was “Coopen” which was available in 15kg bags and each bag costs # 7,0 00 Naira. Doing the quick sums would show that I needed to budget 1.47 million Naira for feeds if all conditions were met for optimum production and possibly higher if any errors came up in my feeding regimen. The large sum spurred me into action to reduce our cost of feeds and increase my take home pay.


The first step I took bringing to fore all of my analytical chemistry education was to pick up a bag of fish feed at the Kado fish Market (Abuja) and have a look at the contents sticker on the bag. I had to know exactly what was inside what I was paying for. I stumbled upon two facts that were so obvious I felt a shade thicker


• Most of the feed brands available were imported from Scandinavian countries and the very few feeds manufactured by Nigerian companies where so crude in design and packaging that most commercial farms were reluctant to purchase them

• The raw materials for compounding these feeds were readily available at the markets and on my farm site



Fish meal is a major component of the floating feeds and this was basically carcass of fish, small harvested fish, fish bones etc dried and granulated and incorporated into the feed with other additives, wheat offal, soya beans cake, fish oil and essential vitamins. Looking around the Kado fish market, like most other fish markets in Abuja there was no provision for cleaning and disposing off the waste generated at the market. The market was completely covered in fish entrails, fish scales, wastes and the likes. Right in front of me was the problem and the solution.

A clean and hygienic market would attract a wider range of customers and generate more profit for the traders (social responsibility) while collecting all the waste generated at the market would serve as useful raw material for compounding my own fish meal on the farm (entrepreneurial opportunism), later on I would learn from one of my staff that the catfish had a preference for feeding them the raw carcass and waste off the fish market due to it been easier to digest than compounded feeds but that’s a discussion for another day. I returned to the farm in Kuje and drew up an action plan. Investing 20% of my weekly feed budget, I purchased plastic bins and bags branded with our farm logo and joined my staff to woo the local fish sellers at Kuje market to collect all of their carcass, wastes, etc into the bins which we provided for free to them and even added an incentive of paying # 500 naira for anyone that filled up their wheelie bins. We collected them every evening at 5 o clock and transported them immediately to the farm. By the end of the first week, we had collected 160 Kg of fish waste from Kuje market. After drying and granulation this shrunk to about half the weight. This combined with the maggots produced from poultry droppings on site; I had managed to cut down my feed budget by an enviable 45 % and generated extra revenue selling the waste we couldn’t use to neighboring farms. Making a difference had never been so profitable.


Onimisi K. A.
Is Communication Officer for YAE and a Social Innovation enthusiast
follow on twitter @onimsiwordsmith