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There's mulah in fisheries biz

Make money under water. Join the fisheries business that helps India earn Rs 7,500 crore every year from exports, says Pranab Ghosh

education Updated: Apr 07, 2010 09:45 IST
Pranab Ghosh

Bharat Singh Chauhan, 45, came to Delhi in 1980 from Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, where his father cultivated fish. After setting up a textile business that’s still up and running, Chauhan took up aquaculture in 2005. Today, he has water tanks covering three hectares and yielding around 80 quintals of fish every year. He cultures four varieties — rohu, naren, mrigel and katla — and makes a Rs-15-lakh profit per year.

“Aquaculture is a very profitable business,” says Chauhan. The initial investment to start the business, too, is not high. There’s also no requirement for intensive man or machine power. “It is neither capital- nor labour-intensive,” says BP Upadhyay, extension officer, fisheries unit, development department, Government of Delhi. Chauhan, who had invested around Rs 10 lakh for the start-up, recovered the money in the very first year of business. And that’s more profitable than agriculture. “Aquaculture has become the most profitable and reliable culture practice. It gives more income per unit area in comparison to other agricultural crops,” says Dr Ambekar E Eknath, director, Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture, Bhubaneshwar, a premier research institute on freshwater aquaculture in the country under the aegeis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi.

“Like agriculture and animal husbandry, aquaculture involves farming and husbandry of economically important aquatic plants and animals under controlled conditions,” points out Dr Eknath. Broadly speaking, aquaculture is practiced in a) freshwater b) brackish water (slightly salty, as in an estuary) and c) marine water. Aquatic organisms mostly include finfish, crustaceans — mainly shrimp and prawns, and molluscs — mainly oysters, mussels and clams.

“Of the 7.4 million tonnes of fish that the country produces every year, more than 3.8 million tonnes come from aquaculture,” says Dr S Ayyappan, director general, ICAR. And the target is to produce 10 million tonnes of fish by 2012, he points out. “We require higher resources, more investment and trained manpower,” he adds. This would mean more employment for “aqua cultural engineers, chemists, biologists, zoologists, fisheries graduates, fish nutritionists, fish health specialists, fish gear fabricators, fish processing technologists, quality assurance and market intelligence specialists etc., in the coming years,” he points out.
Aquaculture also plays an important role in strengthening the country’s economy. In India, around 14 million people depend directly or indirectly on fisheries activities and the country earns more than Rs 7,500 crore from export of fishery products. “Aquaculture plays a key role in improving national food security, nutritional security and foreign earnings for the country, generating direct and indirect employment for people,” says Dr Eknath. Dr Nihar Chatterjee, professor - aquaculture, West Bengal University of Animal & Fisheries Sciences, Kolkata, agrees. “For entrepreneurs and the unemployed aquaculture can be a major source of income,” he says. There’s no denying this and you too can become an aquaculturist and contribute to the nation’s economy.

What’s it about?
Aquaculture is the controlled cultivation of freshwater and marine resources, both plant and animal, for human consumption. The primary goal of the aquaculture industry is to produce food. It provides about a fourth of the seafood consumed in the world. Moreover, some plants grown through aquaculture yield substances that are used as thickeners or gelling agents in foods, drugs, and other products. The work of an acquaculturist is carried out in natural water bodies or in artificial ponds, lakes or reservoirs. The animals or plants grow in fresh, brackish (slightly salty) or salt water. By controlling the environment, nutrition, breeding and life cycle, an aquaculturist can improve the quality and productivity of his/her crops. Fish accounts for more than 50 per cent of the annual worldwide aquaculture production. It is an ancient occupation, with the Chinese people practicing it 3,500 years ago. China is still the world leader in raising aquatic plants and animals.

Clock Work
An average day of an aquaculturist:
7 am: Wake up, get ready
9 am: Reach farm
10 am: Delegate work to staff/labourer
11 am: Check water — its level, degree of contamination/pollution, if at all
11.30 am: Monitor the growth of fishes
12 0’clock: Arrange for fish feed
2 pm: Quick lunch
3 pm: Survey the entire farm and fix loopholes if any found

An average day of a professor teaching aquaculture:
7 am: The day begins
10 am: Reach university/college
10.30 to 5.30 pm: Work as faculty — take classes; guide research students, conduct seminars; do own research, etc
7 pm: Reach home

How do i get there?
An entrepreneurial mentality to accept aquaculture as a profession is a must for success. A student should have physics, chemistry and biology as subjects in the Plus-Two level. After passing Class XII you can apply for BFSc, the professional degree programme in any state agricultural university. After getting your degree you can work in the corporate/government sectors or go in for higher studies leading to MFSc., or PhD degrees

The Payoff
Earnings from aquaculture practice vary from system to system, and are higher than what one can earn from agricultural crop production.
A person can earn a minimum profit of Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 a year from one hectare of pond area. If integrated practice is followed, the profit margin can double.

In commercial prawn culture, a hatchery of 10 million post-larvae capacity can yield profits of Rs 7 lakh a year.
Earnings of those engaged in teaching or service would vary. While the basic pay of a professor would be Rs 47,400 a month, that of a senior scientist would be Rs 46,400 a month.

A farmer-friendly mindset
. Ability to work in field conditions
. Should be intelligent and have a general level of awareness so as to adopt the modern techniques available to increase productivity
. Should have a scientific bent of mind

Institutes & urls
. Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE)
. Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA)
. Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA)
. Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI)
. College of Fisheries, Mangalore and Tuticorin

Pros & Cons


The money is good


Sectoral growth is high compared to other agricultural activities


You can suffer big losses if the fish die due to contamination, etc


Brackish water aquaculture may cause environmental problems


Intensive aquaculture Can degrade water quality


Trained manpower is not adequately available


Bank loans and insurance are difficult to get

There is a healthy demand for trained aquaculturists

A senior teacher talks about the opportunities and challenges

Which are the leading places/states in India where aquaculture is practiced?
Commercial aquaculture is practiced in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Is there a healthy demand for skilled personnel in the field of aquaculture in the country today?
As we know India is a highly populated country. The land-to-man ratio is decreasing and food requirement is increasing too. The growth rate in aquaculture (more than 6 per cent per annum) is more than any other food-producing systems. So, the demand for professionally trained aquaculturists is high in India.

Are there adequate numbers of trained professionals in the country?
No. About 350 to 400 BFSc graduates pass out every year from different colleges in the country. This is not sufficient to serve all the branches of aquaculture and fisheries in our country. There is demand for educated and experienced people from the government and private sectors. To overcome this, the number of fishery colleges as well as the number of seats has to be increased.

Who are the leading employers in India and globally?
ICAR Institutes, State Agricultural Universities, government departments, private firms, industry, processing plants and banks. There are several international organisations engaged in the fisheries sector looking for professional fisheries graduates.

Dr Ambekar E Eknath, director, Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA) Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh