Commercial fish farming is rapidly becoming an economically successful venture across the globe.
Fish farming is profitable and an excellent investment if, like any other business, it’s planned carefully and managed efficiently. Like many other forms of agribusiness, it takes experience to realise good returns.
However, many investors enter the industry with insufficient capital and training, expecting overnight break-even, and then manage their business like a hobby farm. Many of their designs are inappropriate to their particular species and local climate and advice is taken from people not directly associated with aquaculture.
One of the newest and most rapidly developing part of agriculture is that of growing animals in water. This science is called aquaculture. Many of the foods we eat were grown in the water. The amount of fish and seafood eaten by Nigerians is increasing each year.
According to experts in the health sector, eating fish is nutritious and makes a good addition to the diet. It is high in protein and low in calories. The fat content is lower than that of red meat, and it helps prevent health problems. As people become more health conscious, the demand for fish and seafood will increase.
This is the more reason people must invest in fish farming. Nigeria requires about 2.6 million metric tonnes of fish annually to supply the dietary requirement of its citizens.
Daily Sun learnt that aggregate domestic fish supply is less than 0.7 million metric tonnes per annum. Consequently, approximately N98.5 billion is expended annually to augment the shortfall. This means Nigeria has heavily relied on importation to meet its needs.
Before now, most of the fish sold in the markets were caught from the wild. The ocean simply cannot sustain enough fish to meet the demand. To meet the demand, fish farms came into production. Fish are very efficient farm animals. This means that a pound of weight can be put on these animals with less feed than other agricultural animals.
By far the most important food fish grown in Nigeria is the catfish. These are raised in all parts of the country because they are fresh-water fish. Catfish are different from most other fish. They have smooth skin instead of scales. They are meaty and have a mild flavour. Also, catfish fits well into farming operations because they are hardy and tolerate relatively low oxygen content in the water.
The production of catfish begins with the breeding process. Through a system called selective breeding, superior fish are used to provide eggs for hatching. Factors such as growth rate and meatiness of the fish are used to determine, which fish are superior. In the future, fish farming will be about innovation, efficiency and sustainability.
The President of Catfish Association of Nigeria (AFAN) once told Daily Sun that fish farming is profitable and that he trained all his children from fish farming business both abroad and in Nigeria. There was a case of a former 300 level Business Administration student of University of Abuja, Abdullah Al-hamza, who makes a net profit of about N45 million annually in fish farming. These people are successful because they obtained the right breed and pay attention to details.
However, breed improvement is important in obtaining advanced and high yielding catfish. The main purpose of breed improvement is to introduce a positive characteristic into a local breed and take advantage of the observed improvement in performance of the progeny above that of either parent-hybrid vigour. Catfish has many different species namely, hetero branchus, clarias gariepinus, hetero clarias, etc.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Jovana Integrated Farms, Prince Arinze Onebunne, said it’s important for farmers to lay more emphasis on how to produce quality and fast growing fish because many producers who put their money in fish farming failed because of poor quality of the procured breed and insufficient knowledge.
He added: “So look before you leap so that you don’t burn your fingers. I have seen farmers who don’t even know the fish breed in their pond. Farming with the right fish breed will guarantee profitability.
“Fish breeding objectives should focus as follows: To breed fish brood stock with high fertility that, when combined with good management inputs, easily deliver thousands of fries, fingerlings and juveniles. To breed catfish that is hardy and display above average disease resistance with minimal animal health inputs.”
He said before considering aquaculture as a business, much research on requirements should be done. He said the research should include marketing, stocking, feeding, water management, grading, harvesting, transport, appropriate fish species, materials and capital investments needed.
According to him, the aim of every fish farmer is to breed a fish to one kg body weight or more in the shortest possible time, usually between four to five months if properly done. He explained that unit prices for table sized is between N500 and N600 per kg at the farm gate, N950 and N1,000 at the retail outlet, and N1,500 and N1,800 in the restaurants depending on the size.
He said one gets more profit if operating a market outlet to cut off shylock middlemen, hinting that in all fish farms, the largest operating cost is feed. He said the advice here is that “you should get the right quality of food for your fish in order to achieve good yield. Therefore, you don’t have to depend solely on expensive imported feed, since one can learn to produce local cheap feed.”
He maintained that people find it difficult to get the fast growing species of fish, adding that at Jovana Farms “we have quality fingerlings you can start your fish farming business with.”
He said, “our breeds are functional, hardy and an economic asset for majority of our customers. Good hatching abilities significantly contribute to profitability in fish farming. Hardiness and disease resistance reduce your input costs and contribute to profitability.
“Ignorance perpetuates failure and constant loss. I have seen farmers recording losses in their farms as a result of factors they could have changed. Therefore, people need to go for training before venturing into fish farming. Some people who started the business without the right species of fish or wit¡hout training have already shut down for lack of appropriate knowledge.”