Aside crude oil, agriculture remains the base of Nigerians economy which provides the main source of livelihood for numerous Nigerians. The aspect of agriculture many intending startup are looking to key in is the livestock farming because of the smaller land space it require compared to that of crop farming. Among the choices in livestock farming; Fish farming is the rearing of different kinds of fishes for the purpose of sales and consumption. It constitutes the fastest growing source of animal protein in developing world. It is also major and the cheapest source of protein for the teeming population and apart from the protein it nourishes the human body with, it is also a good source of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B2 (riboflavin), calcium, phosphorous and minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.
Fish farming business is not all rosy because it has its own challenges and the major one is where to get the fish to start rearing; there are numbers of hatcheries across the country where one can get quality fingerlings and juvenile that has been sorted. It is always advisable to be physically present at the hatchery to buy the fingerlings or juveniles if not; it is possible they supply you with fingerlings that have diseases which will eventually runt (fishes with slow growth even after constantly being fed). The best kind of fingerlings is shooters because they take lesser or speculated time to attain table size which is good for business.
Other challenges include;
Disease; because keeping fish in close proximity increase the chances of diseases and if a fish get sick with a contagious virus, there is a high chance that other fishes will contract the virus. Getting to know which particular fish has been infected in a pool of thousands of fishes is difficult hence, if severe it can cause high mortality rate.
Environment; fish farm can have an harmful effect on the local environment because the antibiotics and chemicals used to treat fish can leach in to surrounding soil and water which can poison agricultural land and also cause air pollution. Haven said that, it is always advisable not to situate a fish farm close to a residential area. Recently, it has become like a norm to get a farm that will be used for fishing close to a river or far away from a residential area but this will involve hiring a security which in turn is an extra cost on set-up cost.
Set-up costs; because of little or no access to loan for startup in Nigeria, setting up cost tend to be the major reason intending fish farm owners don’t go all in and this will deprive them of achieving scale. The cost of setting up is expensive because the farmers have to factor in feeds, staff, maintenance, disease control, packaging and logistics among others.
Nigeria consumes 2million metric tons of fish which creates a huge market opportunity for fish farming and as the population is growing, the demand is also increasing. More than half of the fish consumed by Nigerians is imported, and the price of imported fish have risen sharply. The government is taking steps to restrict fish imports to help encourage domestic production. Fish are perishable but can be persevered buy refrigerating at freezing point or smoked to preserve it and whichever way it is preserved, there are readily available market for it. As more farmers go into aquaculture, the need for maize and soy for aquaculture feed also goes up, which will generate income for grain farmers and boost overall economic growth.
Apart from the fact that it is cheaper than meat, the cost of starting up and running a fish farm is low when compared to other agricultural business ideas. The digging of the fish pond and all other necessary steps can by carry out by you and your friends and you won’t need to pay for manual labor. The construction of a fish pond requires not so large area of land which can be situated in your back yard. In addition to all these, it provides a source of income and employment.
Tips on how to make Fish Farm Profitable
Feed constitutes the larger part amount of the overall cost in fish production. It is sad that we are in the 21st century and Nigeria still imports feeds, this is obviously becoming extremely hard for local farmers to afford due to the high cost of logistics involved in bringing them into the country and the increasing depreciation of the naira currency against the dollar. What this means to farmers who depend on imported feeds is that they end up incurring so much cost that their profit margin is minimized.
Quite a number of farmers now buy feeds that are sourced from local materials particularly once the fish are two months old and start consuming more, and this according to them do drastically reduced their cost of production.
According to research, feeding is the most important work in fish farming because it requires both skill and time to get it right. The skill it required is knowing the amount of feeds they need to be fed without wasting any. One important tip to do that is you can feed them according to the biomass of the pond or by the weight of the individual fish which will be very demanding for large commercial farms with so many ponds and fishes to feed. Manual feeding is recommended to ensure a more equal distribution of food. In the first few weeks of introducing the fishes to the pond, it is always advisable to feed them 3 times a day; morning, afternoon and night. After the third week, study shows you can reduce it twice a day – morning and evening and make sure they are feed them well and not just with any feeds but feeds that are rich in protein content. It is smart to use floating fish pellets, because it let one see how the fish are responding to feeding which can help you determine when to stop.
It’s highly important to get fishes that grow faster and convert feeds more efficiently hence, knowing the right genetic to select from goes a long way in influencing the fish growth. According to thefishsite.com, crossing channel catfish females with blue catfish males creates a kind of hybrid strain that has been proven to be more profitable with more desirable traits including their ability to adapt to high stocking densities, resisting handling and stress, tolerating poor water quality, and growing faster to reach market size. This hybrid is also popularly known to eat different kinds of food, such as aquatic weeds and insects, other small fish and snails, making it easier to feed and thereby reducing the amount of feeds that they were supposed to be fed.
If all these are done with optimal management, a fish farm cycle is usually between 5months to 6months. It is always good to have a readily available market to sell to else feeding of fish will continue. Selling directly to households and consumers is more profitable than selling to wholesalers so your target markets should be hotels and restaurants.