In this project, Shiblee Hatchery & Farms Ltd. aims to engage 100 landless families as fish farmers of cage-cultured tilapia, along the banks of the Adhamanki River. In addition to cultivating fish, livestock and vegetables on its farm in Kuakata, Shiblee also runs a supply network, delivering chemical-free fish and meat products to high-end clients in Dhaka. A pilot scheme in 2010 verified the potential to produce quality tilapia in river-mouth water. The next step is to roll out a business model based on a contract farming approach to production, and secure investment to finance the farmers' investment.
The business will initially be based on a contract farming model, which means Shiblee Hatchery will provide the fish-farmers with hatchlings, technical advice and assistance to access finance and equipment, while providing a secure market for the fish. Each farmer will have an area along the river on which they he or she is responsible for maintaining at least 10 bamboo fish cages (30m x 8m) to rear around 500 tilapia fish per cage. Over time, the model will evolve into a micro-entrepreneur system, where farmers run their fish farm more independently, and engagement with Shiblee for quality inputs and sale of quality fish is based on a franchise system or quality seal.
The most immediate commercial driver for this venture is to expand sales of quality tilapia fish. Currently the quality and quantity of tilapia supply are variable, while demand on global markets is increasing. The tilapia from semi-saline river water will have improved taste and more standard size. The cage culture farming model has potential to scale up quickly once the business model for finance is proven: the aim is to expand to 200 farmers after Year 1.
Longer-term, the venture offers two other commercial opportunities: to expand the product offering into other farmed fish, such as sea-bass; and to develop a quality seal which can be applied more widely across the sector, enabling a new source of business growth for Shiblee Hatcheries.
The fish farmers could earn around 100 to 150 USD from each 6-month cycle of farmed fish – depending on the credit terms established & loss to disease. Income potential will increase if locally-grown fish food can be developed, as the cost of commercial fish food is the main operating cost.