The Aquaculture Enterprise Program is designed to enable incoming students graduate as practicing aquaculture entrepreneurs. The program is intense as it drives students to develop the practical and critical skills they need to successful. The major topics covered in the course are as follows:
Introduction To Fish Farming:
As indicated earlier, the program does not assume prior knowledge or familiarity with aquaculture. In this introductory segment, participants will get a general overview of the art and science of fish farming, with a particular emphasis on the types of fish that are commercially viable in different markets. The course also addresses the critical considerations associated with aquaculture as a life science practice, and the various avenues for use of fish once fully grown.
Students will also get an up-close look at the various life stages in the fish lifecycle from fries to table fish. This segment will also introduce value-added products that can be derived from a base stock of table fish and the various markets to this which those products can be sold.
Site Selection For Aquaculture:
Aquaculture is a life science. Practice. Fries need conducive environments to grow into fingerlings and eventually to table fish. In this segment, students will learn the various environmental factors that affect the growth of fish at various stages, and how these factors can be enhanced (where desirable) or mitigated (when deleterious) so as to reduce mortality and increase overall feed conversion ratio (FCR) of the fish. These factors must be balanced against concerns for the security of the installation especially as the stock matures.
Furthermore, the potential expansion needs of the enterprise must be taken into consideration at the early stage to minimize subsequent movement of the growing fish (due to unanticipated relocation). This also helps to optimize the labor required to care for the fish stock. Students will learn how the FFBX is designed and the various environmental factors that influenced its design features. Students will also learn how to select the optimal site (available to them at the time at their intended location) for the siting of their pondacles. Students are encouraged to send photographs of their intended locations (if available) so they get hands-on support in their early decision-making regarding site selection.
At the very early stages of their life (just like humans), fries are very sensitive to the presence of small amounts of contaminants, chemicals and other environmental pathogens. Ponds have to be cleaned thoroughly—and properly— prior to the introduction of a growing fish population. In this part of the course, students will learn what these potential threats are and how to properly prepare a pond to realize favorable growth outcomes for the stock.
This includes the selection of cleaning agents, methods and duration for cleaning, and other techniques required to create the suitable environment in the pond for growth of inhabitant life forms. The failure to do this properly can result in mass casualty events for the fish stock. These critical skills will be learned in this segment of the course.
Aquaculture is an economic endeavor. To that end, there are competing pressures between the need to minimize capital requirements (by reducing space dedicated to the growth of the fish) and the need to maximize the growth of the fish (which is the basis for pricing and the expected returns from fish sales). There is an intricate balance between cost and growth potential.
This segment of the course will help students determine when and how to evaluate the space requirements of their growing lifeforms and how to ensure the comfort of their fish while minimizing cost. Where feasible, students will participate in the stocking of a pond so they get a tactile sense of the process.
Fish Feed & Feeding:
This is perhaps the most angst-ridden issue for aquaculture entrepreneurs. The ever-rising cost of fish feed can, and in many cases, has driven entrepreneurs out of business. This aspect of aquaculture presents a particular vulnerability for fish farmers because a lot of the feed used in the country is imported and with eroding exchange rates, fish feed costs rise at rates far in excess of inflation. On occasion, suitable fish feed is simply unavailable.
In this segment of the course, student will gain a fundamental understanding of the feeding requirements of fish (at various stages of development) and how different feeds in the market address those needs. The goal is NOT for students to formulate their own feed (since that would require several years of specialized training) but instead for them to become confident and knowledgeable in the selection of appropriate feed for their stock.
Students will also learn how to improvise for limited periods or in cases of emergencies to sustain their stock. Questions around fish feed selection will be addressed extensively here.
Pond Management & Maintenance:
The continued development of fish in a pond environment requires proper management and maintenance. In this segment of the course, participants will learn how to think about their ponds, how to visually evaluate the health of the aquatic environment, and how to document the state of the aquatic environment.
They will also be introduced to basic equipment and instruments used to measure important parameters relating to the pond environment and aquatic wellbeing. Students will be expected to practice the use of these instruments and probes so as to understand their appropriate application.
Fish Diseases & Prevention:
Recognizing that fish are living organisms, even under the best of circumstances they may be susceptible to disease and other forms of pestilence. In this segment, participants will be introduced to the most common forms of disease found in local fish (particularly catfish), how some of them can be identified by visual or behavioral observation, and how to treat some of those diseases.
Beyond the types and treatment of disease, this segment will emphasize practices and techniques to minimize the occurrence of these diseases in the first place. Students will be expected to able to visually identify the symptoms of some basic diseases by the end of this segment and have the confidence to intervene where appropriate.
Water Quality Management:
This is the second most important variable that can affect the growth of fish (after the selection of appropriate feed). Even with good feed, poor water quality conditions can lead to high mortality of fish stock. In this segment, participants will focus on water as both a habitat and a nutrient for the fish. Participants will learn how to conduct basic tests on water, evaluate its quality, and inculcate the discipline around proper water quality management.
The goal of the aquaculture enterprise is to grow fish to a suitable size and sell it in a timely manner. This segment will teach participants the proper techniques for harvesting of fish and the critical considerations that apply in the handling of fish at this more mature stage of their development. The timing of fish harvesting is also tied to the intended end use of the fish. This segment will also cover the various points in the lifecycle at which harvesting may be more suitable for different end uses.
Aquaculture Records Management:
This is a business under development. Records are critical for both the economic and aquatic wellbeing of the enterprise. This segment will teach participants what records to keep and how to analyze that information to support decision making in the enterprise (such as the optimal time for harvesting or timing of feeding). The use of the Aquada FFBX App for Android[TM] tablets will also be introduced.
Fish Farm Economics
The records discussed in the preceding section provide a firm basis for the discussion of fish farm economics in this segment. The goal is to understand what drives profit and loss in aquaculture enterprise and what the critical risk factors are. This segment will raise the awareness amongst participants on what make or break their fledgling enterprises and to ensure that they keep a hawkish eye on these factors by maintaining appropriate records and ensuring good aquaculture practices across their entire operation.