I never knew that fish farming could be so profitable. Culturing high value species means my income is increasing and my life is changing.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
High quality inputs such as fingerlings, commercial feeds and aqua chemicals are key factors in commercially-profitable fish farming. Small fish farmers however lack access to these inputs: private companies usually cater only for medium and large fish farmers. 

Even when small farmers do get improved access to quality inputs, their knowledge of effective culturing techniques tends to be limited, and improper post-harvest management practices can result in considerable wastage of the fish produced. Katalyst works across these three areas (quality inputs, flow of information and knowledge, and post-harvest management) in order to help increase the income of small and poor fish farmers. In collaboration with input companies (such as local hatcheries, feed and aqua chemical companies), Katalyst developed a business model to promote the culture of high value species among small and poor fish farmers.

Mohammad Ali from Radhakanai, Mymensingh, started culturing fish in a pond of seven decimal. This is the main income source for his family of five: his wife, their seven-year old son and Mohammad’s parents. “I had no knowledge of cultivation methods – I just used to culture fish according to my own experience and observations. I tried to learn by doing. Sometimes, the fish died or got some disease, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Some fish grew big, some were small. I never managed to get a fair price for them at the local market. So life was a bit difficult for me, bearing the expenses of my family,” Mohammad says.

“In 2012, the hatchery owner Kader knew I was struggling, so he advised me to get some training on fish cultivation. The first training was on fish culturing methods, provided by Sarnalata hatchery. I learned how to prepare a pond, the optimum number of fish to culture in terms of pond size, and how and what to feed the fish. I realised the mistakes I’d made, and applied the new techniques I’d learned straightaway. Hearing about the benefits of culturing high value species, I also bought some quality tilapia fingerlings from the hatchery: now, I culture these alongside the traditional species developed,” Mohammad goes on to say.

Mohammad Ali used to spend BDT 8,000 (USD 99) to buy enough fish feed to culture BDT 8,000 (USD 99) of fish, which he can sell in the market for BDT 35,000 (USD 435), making an increase in annual profit of BDT 12,000-15,000 (USD 145-181). However, the training showed him how to make fish feed at home instead of having to buy it. The money he saves as a result – as much as BDT 2,000 (USD 24) – counts towards his profit.

With the additional income he has earned during the last three years, Ali says, first he repaired his small house, and later spent some money expanding it. He feels good about the future, and plans to lease a pond and continue cultivating fish.