Dar es Salaam — According to FAO, Aquaculture in Tanzania is dominated by freshwater fish farming in which small-scale farmers practice both extensive and semi-intensive fish farming. Small fish ponds of an average size of 10 metres x 15 metres (150 square metres) are integrated with other agricultural activities such as gardening and animal and bird production on small pieces of land. Tanzania is currently estimated to have a total of 14,100 freshwater fishponds scattered across the mainland.
Aquaculture in The United Republic of Tanzania is still largely a part-time activity. The total number of people involved in the aquaculture sub-sector is about 17,100, with 14,100 involved in freshwater fish farming and about 3,000 in seaweed farming.
Jerry Mang'ena (27 years old) is the founder of Aqua-Farms Hatcheries; A youth-led science-based tilapia hatchery, that produces a variety of tilapia fingerling strains; Jerry says, "Our hatchery can produce two million fingerlings a year. We utilize advanced technology that decreases the demand of tilapia seeds by 7 percent, cutting down the deficiency tilapia fingerlings to 76 percent equivalent to 1,200 more fish farmers supplied with quality fish seeds in each year. We have global advisory insights from Europe, North America, and other international institutions assisting our expansion".
The determinations of Jerry and his colleagues Cretus Mtonga and Mbonea Assery led them to put together their savings and topped it with Sh3 million from fund-raising and partner support. And with a small capital they launched their dream social enterprise Aqua farm Hatcheries which currently holds an investment valued to Sh207 million and with three full-time employees.
Aqua farm's goal is to expand the production of sustainable, on-site fish fingerling supply while creating employment opportunities by harnessing this symbiotic relationship between plant and fish of aquaponic vegetable cultivation fertilized by the fish waste, independent of external supply chains vulnerable for exploitation.
The hatchery hosts three fast-growing breeds of tilapia, which will be subjected to further genetic improvement. Currently, the firm has the capacity to produce 1,200,000 fingerlings and expanding to 2,000,000.
The business will decrease the deficiency by seven percent cutting down the deficiency to 76 percent equivalent to 1,200 more fish farmers will be supplied with quality fish seeds in per year.
Jerry pursued a BSc programme in Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries at the University of Dar es Salaam, and during his time at school his interest to go an extra mile spiked. Jerry says, "In our final year 2016, I and my colleagues had a conversation over a student lunch about what we can do beyond the normal to push the sustainable utilization of Aquatic resources. We agreed to start an NGO named Aqua-Farms Organization that aimed at promoting sustainable utilization of ocean, lakes, and rivers for food security and poverty alleviation."
Later in 2019, a few of them from the NGO Aqua-Farms Organization wanted to create a social enterprise in the similar lines of our work.
This decision came as a result of realization whereby Jerry and colleagues realised that the county has a demand for 480,000 tonnes of fish per year. Their social enterprise was also created with the aim to decrease wild catch and increase the fish population.
Aquaculture (fish farming) has a great potential to replace the needed demand of fish, but it faces several constraints such as fish seeds (fish fingerlings), fish feed and technology.
According to the recent Inception Study of Aquaculture Tanzania reported that with the rapid growth of the number of tilapia farmers reaching 28,000 in Tanzania, the demand of quality and reliable tilapia fish seeds, across the country is 40 million seeds a year and the current supply is limited to 10 million resulting in to 83 percent deficiency of fish seeds for small farmers to do fish farming, hence we decided to venture in fish fingerlings (seeds) production
Just like many other SMEs Aqua farm hatcheries faces some few challenges and Jerry says: "Our production line is facing a number of challenges; however, the biggest challenge is power cut and electricity cost, this hinders our ability to products, causes fish death as we are using recirculation systems that are operating full time on power"
Jerry also points out that they have a number of supports at the both technical and financial levels, they closely work with the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), Aqua-Farms Organization (AFO), World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WiSHH), BATCOON, and GroPoD.
When asked on where they see themselves in the next five years, Jerry says: "We at Aqua-Farms want to change the fish farming industry to be more than the chicken story, we see ourselves with branches in five strategic regions across the country, where we will be able to supply many fish farmers with quality tilapia seeds. In terms of production, we are aiming at a capacity to produce five million seeds a year".
Impact wise: The business is currently supplying customers of Dar es Salaam and Coast regions with quality fast-growing fish that ensures them a good return on investment in well managed.
They have also offered training to local farmers, and practical training to university students who are pursuing related courses.
Aqua farm hatcheries also boast a success story; they have supplied fingerling to many farmers who are almost at harvesting stages, with fish that are at marketable size, in a short period of time.
To other aspiring entrepreneurs in aquaculture Jerry says, "Aquaculture is so promising but it's a matter of time, on an average you need 6-8 harvests to understand the value chain, as well as to operate at minimum cost, and this is due to high costs of farm inputs especially food."