One fish farmer’s hatchery innovation in Awach Village of Kendu Bay, Homa Bay County, is not only a spectacle to behold, but is also yielding handsome returns for him.
Using a couple of jugs to hold fish eggs, a basin for collecting fry and a modified filter jerrican to filter out fish waste, Mr George Muga, 48, has his complete hatchery. From this innovation that is housed in a 5m by 4m room, he is able to hatch about 100,000 tilapia fingerlings a month and sell frys-fish at Sh5 each, earning Ksh200,000 monthly.
The fingerlings fetch KSh7 for every five-grams. Mr Muga also has four grow-out ponds in which he stocks 4,000 tilapia fish (1000 in each) that rakes in between Sh40,000-Ksh50,000 from each, every eight months.
The farmer, who made his foray into fish farming 16 years ago, with a meagre capital of Ksh22,000 that he had saved from his salary as an accountant, is today doing booming business. The four fish ponds on half-an-acre of land that he bought for Sh100,000 near river Awach, measure 300 square metres each.
And in a bid to wrestle with the big players in the fishing industry and get a bit of the market, Mr Muga has leased another half-an-acre farm at KSh300,000 to raise more fingerlings. Judging from the steady growth of his agribusiness, he is definitely set for greater things ahead.
However, it has been a long time coming in a business that this father of four got into by chance. In 2002, the then accountant constructed two small ponds measuring 10m by 10m at his home in Awach, where he kept cat fish for his family’s consumption.
“I bought 500 fingerlings of cat fish at Sh4 each and used another Sh20,000 to build a pond,” recalls Mr Muga. The business bug bit him when he started receiving enquiries from customers from as far as Sagana in Kiambu County. “I had wanted to use the fish farm to feed my family. But when I started receiving visitors enquiring about the catfish, I smelt a business idea,” says Mr Muga.
Then, he sold 200 pieces each weighing about 1-2kg at Sh200 per kilo, pocketing KSh40,000. That was a lot of money for the assistant accountant with a monthly salary of Sh15,000. “This was an eye-opener,” he adds.
“I used to buy fingerlings from Dominion and Jewlet hatcheries worthSh40,000 a month. But because of the shortage of fingerlings fueled by a cage fish farming boom, I had to wait for days to get my orders. This is the reason I started the hatchery to hatch my own fingerlings.”
In 2014, training on hatchery management organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) under the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund project-an innovative Africa-led fund to improve agriculture and food security changed his mindset