Kenya is hosting the first international blue economy conference amid dwindling local fish supply.
Statistics indicate Kenya still has a deficit of about 360,000 tonnes of fish, which require interventions to bridge.
As part of the initiatives to expand the blue economy, Victory Farms (VF) in Homa Bay County is setting the pace in raising the local fish supply through commercial cage fish farming.
The fish firm located at Roo beach is among those that have succeeded in the practice of cage aquaculture in East Africa and is adding to the country’s fish stock.
It produces fresh tilapia fish under caging system, which is later sold through its distribution channels in Nairobi and parts of Western Kenya. The production process is full-fledged and starts with fingerlings generation at its ponds on the shores of Lake Victoria.
The farm has around 23 fish ponds where the fingerlings are bred before they are transferred in the cages for further growth. Nine more ponds are currently under construction. The farm also runs a hatchery producing up to 200,000 fingerlings per week.
Michael Ouya, the farm’s ponds manager, says production cycle starts with selection of the brood stock which is placed in breeding ponds (hapas) and is replaced after 18 months. The farm has about 132 fish hapas.
“A stock comprising males and females is placed in the ponds. On average, a new brood stock takes about two weeks produce the first eggs,” he says.
Eggs production rate in the hapas, he adds, is pegged on factors such as the sex ratio, stocking density, water quality and size of fish.
The eggs are collected and taken to the hatchery for three to four days then brought back to the sex-reversal ponds and after 21 days they generate into fingerings which are stocked in the cages. Ouya reveals that the farm can produce up to 4.5 million fingerlings in a month.
Once the production cycle is complete, the fish is harvested, packaged and sold through the company’s sales points mainly in Nairobi and parts of Western Kenya.
Freddy Lapentti, a manager at Victory Farms, says the company currently produces on average 10 tonnes of fish each harvesting day. The harvests, he says, are conducted multiple times a week and is dependent on the orders they get from the logistics and distribution points.
“The harvesting period depends on the size of fish the market is asking for,” he says, adding: This month, the yield was between 100 and 110 tonnes. At the cages, the stock is fed daily with varied feed quantities depending on the size of fish and cage biomus (certain specified feed amount recommended for each cage).
Preferably, he says, they feed their fish as many times a day, twice in the morning and once in the afternoon.“We have different sizes of fish in the cages. Normally we load the feeds into the boat and distribute them to all cages,”
“We also regularly check the water temperature, oxygen levels, water clarity and clean the nets to avoid blockage,” explains Lapentti.
The average fish production for the cages ranges from seven to 10 tonnes but keeps on varying based on the stocking density. Each of the cages measures 6m by 6m with a stock capacity of between 5,000 and 10,000 fish.
According to Lapentti, VF began its operations in the country in 2016 and is now among the leading suppliers of tilapia fish.