Biofloc Fish Farming: Earning Opportunity For Odisha Youths During COVID-19 Pandemic

Bhubaneswar: A new technology, Biofloc based farming is meant for intensive fish/ shrimp production that doesn’t need a large space. It can be done with basic natural resources like water and land.

With an aim to boost employment opportunities during this pandemic, Odisha government has launched a new scheme for promoting intensive aquaculture through Biofloc technology in fisheries. What’s more important is that the initiative would not only provide livelihood support to entrepreneurs, unemployed youth and interested progressive fish farmers, but will also increase fish production in the State.

This programme aims to support fish farmers and young entrepreneurs for generation of income and livelihood support, said Fisheries and Animal Resources Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo.

OTV Senior Editor Kasturi Ray today spoke to Dr Subhas Sarkar, Scientist (ICAR-CIFA) To understand more on the technology involved and the likely economic benefits as a result of its application. Here are the excerpts from the exclusive conversation.

What is Biofloc Technology In Fisheries and It’s advantages?

Biofloc is a technology using which one can produce fishes significantly in large quantities (in a small volume of water) as compared to the traditional form of aquaculture in large ponds. One advantage is everything is under the control as it is bio-secured system. However, there are some environmental parameters for aquaculture within a confined environment. It is easy to monitor the fish movement, their behaviour and abnormalities as they will remain within a tank which in turn will facilitate taking the corrective measures immediately.

One of the major advantages of this aquaculture technology is it’s water-saving, since a large amount of fish will be produced in comparatively lesser volume of water.

How does Biofloc based fish farming work?

“Moving over to the technological aspect, whenever we are growing fish, we are adding commercial feed to boost the production. In this process, the fishes release large amount of excreta, both in folic and ionic form. When we give fish protein feed for ensuring protein and other source during the metabolism process, fish releases ammonia which remains in the water.

If fish is grown in a restricted tank with less volume of water, too much feed is given to them, a huge amount of ammonia gets accumulated in the water. After digesting the feed, fishes release excreta which also gets accumulated in the water.

This actually creates problem for fish as it creates undesirable condition within the water and quality of the water also degrades. Such conditions hinder the fish growth. We have to create a desirable condition by removing the toxic chemicals and other elements from the water and maintain healthy condition of water,” the doctor said.

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In Biofloc process of fishing, ammonia is converted into a non-toxic form through bacteria. Bacteria absorbs ammonia and converts it into a floating particle. Floating particle refers to a single cell bacteria.

The natural tendency of this bacteria is to coagulate and when trillions of bacteria float on the water surface, it coagulates and forms small flocks. When fish is grown along with bacteria, other microorganisms like protozoa and blue plankton are likely to be present within the water. All these together form a bacterial flock.

In this technological process, we are minimizing or neutralizing ammonia component and alongside, converting the toxic component into a protein particle. The bacteria will again consume the flock which is a recycling process of waste into a valuable protein component and at the same time it will maintain the water quality. The same food is recycled and the fishes can consume it several times- first directly and next from flock.

How to start Biofloc based fish farming : Experts Help A Must

Somebody wanting to go for this process needs expert advice because the person has to manage the water condition and quality, given the fact that fishing in a small volume of water might degrade the quality of water. Water quality management is the most important. Along with this, one needs to know about testing the water quality. Nowadays, many testing kits are available in the market which will help in analyzing the water quality and manage it as per requirement. It is essential to add carbon sources to the water as it will get vulnerable to ammonia. People generally use jaggery which is a readily available carbon source. To neutralize ammonia, one needs to add carbon source. However, the quantity of additional carbon source to be added to water source depends on the water quality (ammonia content). One must be aware of all these factors before initiating the process.

What is the investment required for Biofloc based farming?

There are two aspects, i.e. capital and operational expenditure. Capital expenditure will remain the same for all types of fish while the operational expenditure depends on the species.

Nowadays, there are readily available tarpaulin tanks which can store around 10,000 litres of water. Water volume will increase with the size of the tank. The cost of a 10,000 litre tank will cost around Rs 15-20K as per present market value. Prices could vary depending on the availability of the products in the local area.

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The next thing is to arrange a system for oxygenation. For a four model tank, one needs a 1HP air blower which will cost around Rs 20,000.

Pipe arrangements and other required things in the subsequent phase which will cost around Rs 25K. Next, a shed is required over the tank and the cost depends on the arrangements. People can arrange locally available bamboo and other things to prepare a shed and it is estimated at around Rs 20K. The total capital expenditure can be estimated to be Rs 1-1.2 lakh.

The operational cost of fish production will be per kilo. The operational cost of certain fish species will be Rs 70-80 per kg. The price of production is high in this process as the operational cost is higher excluding the capital expenditure.

The price of a particular fish species also matters. Price of Pangas fish in Odisha is less in comparison to its price in Northern India, much alike to Rohu and Katla price. Marketing such fishes in Odisha is a major concern. Fishes like Rohu, Katla and Bhakur cannot grow in these tanks. In this process growing the fishes commercially may not be profitable as growing large fishes in small tanks is not feasible, they need space. This is a big drawback. You can grow some fishes with high market value. The high valued fishes are not in high demand in Odisha. So, growing such commercial fishes in a small tank and selling it in high-demanding markets like West Bengal would be profitable. A farmer needs to develop a good marketing value chain to sell the products.

Another big problem in Odisha is large scale availability of fish seed. Moreover, the survival rate of such large fishes in a tank is very low. The fishes might get injured at times. Before culturing these fishes in a tank, one needs to collect maximum information about the seed availability.

The Government Promises To Provide 40-60% Subsidy To SC/ST Beneficiaries. Will CIFA Be Partnering To Boost Such Innovative Technology To Empower Youth Groups Interested For This Process Of Fish Farming?

So far, CIFA is not a partnering institute in this case.

Will CIFA Be Roped In For The Project In Future, If Needed?

The entire process is based on experience of farmers and private entrepreneurs. They are trying at their own level. CIFA doesn’t have such technology to grow fish in tanks. No research work has been done till now on how much production can be done in a single tank and the time the entire process will consume. Whosoever does this, they have to do it on a trial basis first as we don’t have a clear picture on the production. After getting an overall idea, with confidence, one can initiate the process on a large-scale basis.

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What does Odisha Govt Has To Say?

Biofloc system is suitable for growing freshwater fish species such as GIFT Tilapia, Magur, Pangasius, Anabas, Common Carp and others depending on local market demands.

In Biofloc technology, the waste organic matter in the tank, such as feed waste, is digested using probiotics (helpful bacteria) and carbon source such as molasses and gets converted to fish feed.

In normal pond based farming system, one acre of an earthen tank (4000 square metre area) produces about 2,000 kg of fish in 6 months; while in biofloc fish farming system, the same 2000 kg fish can be produced only from 4 small tanks of each 4-metre diameter and 1.2-metre depth installed in a floor area of about 100-150 square metre, the minister said.

Each biofloc tank is stocked with about 1,000-1,500 numbers of quality fish (2-3 cm) or fingerlings (8-10 cm) with a target of 500 kg fish production over a 6 month period.

Fish grows to about 200 grams within 3 months and 700 -800 grams within 6 months.

Therefore, depending on the local market demand, fish can be partially harvested on a daily basis to generate daily income for farmers. Biofloc farming system is also suitable for urban and semi-urban areas.

It can be set up even on terraces of buildings and backyard. It offers live or fresh fish to surrounding customers thus fetching higher market prices for the producer.

The unit cost for installation of a Biofloc unit of 2 tanks is Rs 1.50 lakh, while a biofloc unit of 6 tanks costs approximately Rs 4 lakh.

The state government provides a subsidy of 40 percent while 60 percent subsidy is provided to SC & ST beneficiaries for this scheme.

This new and emerging technology will provide an accelerated boost to the fish production of the state and encourage small landholders and entrepreneurs to take up fish farming in the state, the minister said, adding that the government will provide all technical know-how to implement the project.

The above information has been compiled for you in the below video: