Big Fish: Project that advances innovation to improve yields

What you need to know:

The Managing Director from the demonstration farm Big Fish, Zena Mndeme, explains in an interview with The Citizen’s Rosemary Mirondo that knowledge sharing and practical skills training are the secret weapon to unlock Tanzania’s aquaculture sector full potential that is an emerging sector.
Big Fish farm in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam, is a modern aquaculture production facility showcasing an integrated approach to fish farming, including innovative recirculation-based systems, improved genetics and high-quality construction materials. It includes the unique Recirculation Aquaculture System (RAS) for tilapia farming and a hatchery producing high-quality YY-fingerlings. The project is supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands through the Impact Cluster initiative using localised Dutch technology from Dutch partners such as Holland Aqua, Viqon, Genap, Til Aqua, Larive International and Lattice Consulting. The Impact Cluster aims at supporting the Tanzanian National Industrialisation Agenda by driving the growth of the Tanzanian aquaculture sector. The motive is to provide tailored equipment, quality inputs and in-depth training and support services to entrepreneurs.
At this year’s Tanzania Innovation Week, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands focuses on promoting Climate Smart Cities for Tanzania. And to learn, network and exchange on innovations this week, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is proud to showcase this highly collaborative and innovative project where Tanzanian and Dutch partners are working closely together sharing knowledge and expertise using climate smart approaches to boost urban Tilapia fish farming.
Below is the excerpt from the interview:

Question; Can you tell me about the demonstration farm you manage in Kigamboni?

Answer: The Righa’s Safina’s Big Fish demonstration farm was opened in February 2020, in Kigamboni, in the presence of the Dutch ambassador and the deputy minister of Livestock and Fisheries and many other stakeholders. The aim of the demonstration farm in Kigamboni is to boost local Tilapia fish farming sector. The demonstration farm is the first demonstration farm using  re-circulating Aquaculture System (RAS).  This technology allows culturing fish while minimising the use of natural resources such as water and energy.

Why is it important?
In Tanzania, an estimated 70 percent of the smallholder tilapia farmers are currently making losses. Conditions for fish farming differ per region and expertise about which farming practices suit which conditions is limited, and fish farmers rarely keep track of farming metrics. As risks are high, financial institutions lack the appetite to start investing in aquaculture. There are limited good examples to show how farming may be done successfully. Yet such good examples are crucial to boosting the sector. Currently the Tanzanian aquaculture production contributes to only one percent of Tanzanian fish consumption whilst its climate is ideal for fish farming. The demand for fish is rapidly rising due to population growth and rising incomes. The aquaculture sector in Tanzania has the potential to become a significant source of affordable, high-quality protein; to reduce poverty, provide employment and contribute to gross domestic product. Our demonstration farm aims to show that boosting local Tilapia fish farming is possible and economically viable. I really believe in the importance of fish farming because fish are so delicious and so much healthier than for example beef and pork. Fish contains one of the most important proteins which is Omega-3 fatty acids.

How your technologies are contributing to the development of a sustainable aquaculture value chain?

We supply natural male tilapia. It is guaranteed our fry has a 99 percent male ratio without the use of artificial hormones. The high male ratio allows for better performance and fast growth rates in pond. Also they are disease resistant meaning that farmers will have a higher production and more efficient production results.

In addition, the RAS technology at the demo farm allows farmers to optimize the water and land use in a controlled environment as water is constantly recirculated, filtered, added oxygen and returned to the tanks. Because the quality of water is constantly maintained, the technology allows for high input-output efficiency and is particularly suitable in the areas where land is expensive and water is scarce such as in urban areas. The filtered waste is used as a fertilizer for a small horticulture garden around the farm.    

And last but not least, having fish in a controlled environment reduces the risks of diseases and mortality. Farmers can expect fast growth rates and lower feed use compared to other production systems. In future, we expect to produce 15 tons every month.

What has been important making this demo farm such a success?
Working together and knowledge exchange with our Dutch partners has crucial
Secondly, the training of our staff has been important. They have been trained on a basic and advanced level in order to be able to run the new technologies and produce up to 150 kg of fresh tilapia per cubic meter of holding tank. The managers are trained to maintain optimal production levels, but also to share this acquired knowledge with other Tanzanian fish farmers who want to improve their farming practices. We welcome everyone to visit our demonstration farm to learn about best practices, production systems water quality genetics, fish diseases, farm technology and how to serve best the market