A lot of people nurse the desire to own a fish farm or pond but are discouraged by false knowledge or information they have about fish farming. There are however a lot of people engaged in fish farming and are actually making profit from it. Some of these people hide knowledge they have gathered for fear of being outsmarted or fear of competition. Some who have excelled in certain areas of fisheries discourage people from going into it simply because they want to maintain a monopoly in the business. Candidly the fish farming industry is so vast and difficult to monopolize. No single individual can exhaust all the opportunities in fish farming.
The aquaculture value chain is a conglomeration of activities linked together to stimulate the various segments of aquaculture in such a way that the products and byproducts are processed into its final stage for end users or consumers. It is called a value chain because the various activities that lead to getting fish on the table of consumers are linked together to add value to each other in the process of production or farming. For instance fish farming is not just an activity related to the fish farmer alone, it involves a lot of people and professions who under normal circumstance would not have teamed together in the process of fish production. There are people who will never eat fresh fish. The fresh fish dryer has added value to the fresh fish farmer who now makes it possible for those who would not have bought fresh fish to buy them at the dry state. This in turn gives profit or value/ increased turnover to both the farmer and dryer. The value chain can be listed as, hatchery farmers, fish fry nursery farmers, growers of table size fish, middle men who buy farmed fish and sell to retailers. Other members of the value chain include fish feed and drug sellers, feed and drug formulation/production factories, cereal farmers, fish dryers and sellers, consultants in fish farming, plumbers, restaurants/hotel operators, fish farming for recreation and sports and aquaculture engineers, pond builders and fabricators of equipments and tools. Aquaculture indeed is a veritable avenue for job creation.
Fresh water fish farming can provide opportunities for integration with other commercially viable crop farming and animal husbandry. Fish farming can be combined under an integrated snail and banana system. Fish farming can also be combined with vegetable farming, poultry and piggery. The success of this will largely depend on the innovative/creative ability of the farmer. Previous articles have suggested that the waste water from the fish farm serve no further agricultural purpose, but this can be harnessed to create dry season farming and irrigation agriculture. The water from the fish pond is very rich in nutrients.
Stimulating the aquaculture value chain will provide a strong and dependable option for import substitution and export. Nigeria is a fish consuming nation and presently depends heavily on fish importation. The amount spent on fish importation can be channeled into developing other sectors of the economy and reducing our dependency on oil. “Nigeria spends an estimated N125.38bn every year importing fish, the Federal Government has said. The government frowned at the development and stressed that about 1.9 million metric tons of fish were imported into Nigeria annually. Speaking at a stakeholders’ interactive session on repositioning the fishery industry in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said the situation was “totally unacceptable.” He said, “Nigeria spends an estimated N125.38bn importing fish every year. This is totally unacceptable.” According to Adesina, fishery is an important sector and contributes four per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. He explained that the total demand for fish in Nigeria was 2.7 million MT but Nigeria was producing about 800,000 MT locally, with the deficit of 1.9 million MT addressed by imports. The minister therefore noted that for Nigeria to be self-sufficient in fish production, it should promote greater investments in aquaculture, improve inland and marine fisheries.
Many who desire to become fish farmers are deterred by the cost of sinking a borehole. Some insist that a borehole must be sunk to achieve commercial viability in fish farming. My recent studies and research has proven that one can actually do fish farming without depending much on the use of bore hole. The south of Nigeria is blessed with a long period of rainy season that affords the farmer opportunity to harvest water into earthen ponds and reservoirs. The myth that the water in the pond should be changed every week to ensure the growth of the fish does not hold much water. One can actually change water in the pond after a year. (Though not very good for consumer concerns), but this shows that water can be conserved in fish farming.
Another discouraging belief is that for a farmer to sell his fish he needs to grow them to one kilogram and above. This growing of fish to one kilogram and above makes it difficult for the farmer to sustain the feeding of the fishes until they get to one kilogram and above. Contrary to this, a farmer can actually farm his fishes for three to four months and then dry and sell them. Most of the fishes caught in the wild are not as big as the three to four month old farmed fishes. Business is about creating a paradigm shift and continuous innovation. Fish marketing should not be cast on iron and steel. A farmer who questions and desire to break the status quo will go far in the business.
The cost of constructing a fish pond discourages people from going into fish farming. A lot of inputs like rods, cement, sand, chippings and wood are required to build a fish pond. Sometimes these ponds crack or collapse during or after use, furthering the frustration of the farmer. With my recent experience and innovation, I have been able to reduce by sixty percent the cost of constructing a surface and underground concrete tank. This makes it possible for the farmer to attain return on investment after one harvest cycle. Apart from the concrete tank system, there are actually other mediums and materials that can be used for commercial and subsistence fish farming.