Starting a fish farm is only 20% of the job done if you’re looking to start a commercial fish farming business. It is exactly like running any other business, rather trickier as fish-farming in itself is quite a technical skill and takes some training and expertise to master. There are many methods that you can use to learn fish farming, however, fish farming is more of a result rather than the technique per se. RAS, BFT, traditional catchment, etc. are some of the methods of fish farming, and which one you’d choose is a question of the variety and species you are looking to cultivate and the kind of infrastructure you can afford.
To get more clarity as to what kind of fish farm you should invest in setting up, we’ve put together a 5-step guide here. If you are able to define the following steps clearly in your own context, you’ll assuredly be able to set up your own commercial fish farm with the utmost clarity and confidence.
Money matters – deciding investment and risk-taking
Any output requires corresponding input, and the source of all input in the modern economy is money. Fish-farming, like most agribusinesses, is a space and capital-intensive business that requires infrastructure like fishing tanks, ponds, or other man-made structures, in addition to money for procuring the raw material, culture, feed, manpower, and other enablers like electric power, water source, etc. Further, any business comes with a probability of success as well as a probability of failure. While risk can be hedged by properly preparing for the business, indulging in market research, and competitor analysis, nothing is sure shot and there’s always uncertainty associated.
Therefore, risk analysis and ROI (return on the analysis) analysis is an absolutely necessary step that must be performed before a fish farming business is established.
Market study and forecasting – analyzing demand, supply, and competition
Analysis before starting any business should be done on three levels – economy level (i.e., what is the situation of purchasing power of people, what kind of inflation is observed and estimated in the coming years, and so on), industry level (what does the fish and fish farm products industry look like? What is the year-on-year growth potential? What are the demand and supply trends?) and the business level (i.e., specific to the kind of fish farming business that you are looking to establish).
Based on the understanding that is gathered after studying the prevailing and expected competition, prevailing and estimated supply and demand of a certain aquatic commodity, a prospective commercial fish farm can finalize the kind of fish, crustacean, shellfish, or other aquatic variety it wishes to cultivate.
Farm decisions – finalizing technology, location, and scale decisions
Based on the variety of fish or allied products sought to be farmed, the most pressing decision becomes whether to indulge in marine aquaculture or freshwater aquaculture. Within both of these broad categorizations, there are many methods that are deployed in order to achieve the output so desired. Some of these technologies are BFT (biofloc fishing technology), RAS systems, etc.
Additionally, whether a certain state or union territory will give ease of business, tax, or subsidiary benefits is also an important consideration before choosing where to establish the fish farm. Additionally, in the case of marine aquaculture, establishing a farm in shallow coastal waters is often a better decision if a sustainable aquaculture practice that creates a cyclical ecosystem is the goal, as against a deep-water farm where it is difficult to control oceanic forces and nutrient-heavy water. In the case of land-locked areas, many artificial fish farm designs are available to choose from and the variety and scale of aquaculture often guides which farm design and type the entrepreneur ends up going for.
Business Relationships – with suppliers, buyers, middlemen, and logistics partner
Once the fish farm is ready and bustling with good quality output, it needs to be transported to the end customer in the preferred state (i.e., as fresh as practicable). In order to achieve this, suppliers of cold storage space, middlemen who connect wholesalers to retailers, and suppliers of fish feed and ancillaries become pivotal to the success of the fish farm.
There are many angles to these relationships, such as the quality of the value offering, the credit terms agreed upon and even the scope of services so offered. Fish farming is one industry where time is of the essence, and any delay or deficiency in service by any of the stakeholders within the value chain can cause the collapse of the entire operation. Therefore, it is imperative to invest wisely, after proper due diligence and research, into these relationships. The same holds true of the fish farm wants to go for D2C (direct-to-consumer) model, here all such operations become internal, rather than third-party based.
Business Decisions – effectuating marketing, finance, and personnel decisions
You may have exactly what the buyer wants, but if the buyer does not know that you exist and you are willing to meet his demand at an attractive price, it’s a wasted opportunity. In order to tap as much market as you aspire to, you need a strategy in place. Parts of strategy that are most commonly fulfilled are marketing, finance, and personnel relations (both internal and external). It is wise to decide what size your business entity aspires to grow to, and then, based on short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals, incorporate or register with the registrar or other comparable authorities.
Besides getting the legal requirements in order, you must figure out who will take care of which function and learn how to effectively delegate roles and responsibilities to employees. Another skill that you must invest in, is hiring. Whether you hire the right people will directly dictate the success and profitability of your fish farm.
While the industry is a lucrative one, it certainly comes with its own set of challenges. We hope that the aforesaid will guide you towards a clearer image of the kind of commercial fish farm you wish to set up and bring you closer to your entrepreneurial dream!