James Mwaniki walks freely inside his greenhouse in Runyenjes Town, Embu County, as he trains farmers on the best fish management methods.
He has constructed four fish ponds inside the greenhouse and these are not your usual dug-in-the-ground facilities. They are wooden ponds raised few feet from the ground.
“I started fish farming last year but at first, I faced a major challenge as most of my fish died because of the cold weather and predators like birds, snakes and dogs were a nuisance,” he reveals.
The farmer, who holds a diploma in mechanical engineering, says these challenges pushed him to the internet and started researching on how he could solve these problems as well as the best fish farming practices.
“From my research, I realised that I can rear fish in wooden-raised ponds, which also don’t take a lot of space and are easy to manage. They also help to maintain hygiene in the ponds something that is critical for fish farming. I immediately bought the idea and quickly tried it out,” he adds, saying the idea is working.
According to fishery officers, the suspended ponds hold more fish compared to the ordinary ponds that also occupy a lot of space.
Francis Murithi, a fisheries officer based in Manyatta Constituency in Embu, says increased subdivision of land caused by population growth has almost made traditional rearing of fish impossible as it requires a lot of space.
“This problem has been solved by the introduction of wooden ponds.”
Mwaniki says he constructed the fish ponds inside a greenhouse so as to keep predators away, adding that because he is able to regulate temperatures in the greenhouse, his fish grows faster.
The 39-year-old engineer started with one pond in mid-2014 and constructed the other three ponds afterwards.
Recently, the father of one also constructed a hatchery where he develops fingerlings which he sells to nearby fish farmers at a cost of between Sh10 and Sh14 each.
“I have employed four people who work in my 1/8 acre farm, one of them assists me in the fish sector and the other three worksin the seed nursery which I also have.
“I have more than 5, 000 fish in the four ponds,” Mwaniki says.
Currently, his ponds are stocked with 1,800 fish, which will be harvested in the next few weeks.
Last season, he harvested 1,300 fish, each weighing an average of 1.3 kilogrammes.
A kilo was going for Sh320, so he made some Sh512,000. He sells his fish to hotels in Thika, Nairobi and Nakuru towns.
Mwaniki, who also owns an ICT company in Nakuru Town, started with a capital of Sh150,000 to construct the greenhouse and one pond. This was enough to also buy 2,000 fingerlings that he started with.
The ponds are connected to inlet and outlet pipes using an electric pump to ensure that the water is clean and fresh. The system recycles water throughout.
“Water circulation and cleaning in the system is becoming a strong point for us,” he says.
He uses a net with tiny holes to sieve solid particles from the water that is drained in a tank before it is pumped into the cleansing tank.
“Hatchery requires regular supply of water and the fingerlings are kept in the hatchery for two weeks before they are transferred to the nursery ponds in readiness for stocking,” says Josphat Musyoki, the farm manager.
Musyoki adds that although they face a major challenge of cannibalism where bigger fish eat the small ones, they try to curb it by sorting them out according to size, the first one and half weeks after stocking.
From the fish farming income, Murithi has bought a car which he uses to supply fish to his customers.
He has also bought a piece of land where he plans to increase the number of ponds to at least 10 by the end of this year.