The region's fish lovers who, over the years, have relished mahseer, saul and singara, may get hooked to the taste of a new high-protein variety this winter, which is a delicacy the world over.
Tilapia is the breed, and the man bringing it to Punjab's market in two months is Harinderpal Singh Bajwa, a farmer of Warring village in this district. His technique of rearing is from Israel and he claims that tilapia will be the most hygienic fish ever reared or bred in Punjab.
The Biofloc fish technology uses very little water and Bajwa has sought no government subsidy for bringing it to the state. Involving fish rearing in concrete ponds, the technology is patented by Cornell University of the US.
Tilapia is one of the best-traded fish in the world. Its popular breeds are mossambica (black) and niloticus (pink) and Bajwa will grow both.
The Israeli method prevents the wastage of fish food associated with conventional fish farming. "Biofloc involves applying to the concrete ponds bacterial doses that convert the waste material and fish excreta inside into high-value proteins as feed for the fish. The bacteria move in flocks inside the pond, hence the name Biofloc," said Bajwa, 40.
Because there is very little wastage of fish food and water, it reduces the cost of production. It requires almost half the fish food needed in traditional technology. "In the conventional method, fish food accumulates at the bottom and gets mixed with the mud, so the product is not hygienic. The Israeli method is to pump oxygen into the water through pipes to ensure constant movement of the water and feed," said Bajwa, demonstrating the method.
He saw the technique in Nigeria during a couple of years he was there, and on return, contacted Israeli experts on the Internet, who started giving him the necessary instructions. An Israeli expert will visit his farm next month. Bajwa has built four concrete tanks in half an acre and will expand the venture next year. Opened in June, the farm will give him first harvest in October.
The method can produce 30-kilogram fish per cubic metre of water as opposed to just 2-kg per cubic metre in the traditional method. He expects 50-tonne yearly production from half an acre. The main care required is constant aeration of the pond.
The water wastage of is only 0.1%. The technology reduces chances of pathogens dominating the ponds, as even the floor are concrete and the catch will be healthier that the fish from conventional ponds.
Bajwa's next venture is for hydroponic cultivation of vegetables with the surplus water from the fish ponds, as it has a high nutrient value. Hydroponics is a value-adding technique for the cultivation of vegetables in Israel. "Former Amritsar deputy commissioner KS Pannu encouraged me to adopt this technique," he said.
Last Saturday, Pannu, now agriculture secretary, visited his farm and complimented him. Asked to comment, Pannu said the technology could revolutionise fish cultivation in Punjab.