Top 3 Innovative approaches to overcoming challenges in African catfish farming

African catfish farming has the potential to be a profitable and sustainable source of income in Africa. However, farmers face several challenges that can impact production and profitability, Challenges in African Catfish farming such as disease outbreaks, limited access to quality feed and fingerlings, and an underdeveloped African catfish market in some parts of Africa including Ghana, continue to take a heavy toll on farmers profit margins.

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In response to these challenges, farmers are turning to innovative approaches to improve their practices and overcome these obstacles. In this article, we will explore the top 3 innovative approaches that have been successful in overcoming challenges in African catfish farming, and how they are transforming the industry in Africa.

Major Challenges of African Catfish Farmers

  • Unreliable source of African catfish fingerlings and its unusual high cost as compared to tilapia.
  • High cost of feed
  • The Market

The challenges in African catfish farming are enormous, new farmers may have to exercise caution, in order not to lose out on their investments.

We do not intend to come out as putting fear in farmers or would-be farmers, our goal is to share the challenges in African catfish farming that we have experienced ourselves, and introduce you to innovative approaches we used to secure our investments and secure good profit margins.

Afterall, regardless of passion, profit is what drives a business, unfortunately, in any major production, if you fail to do proper market analysis, you have already failed.

Each of these challenges in African catfish farming can lead to the collapse of your business, however, each of them has solutions as well, do not panic, let’s dive in, starting with the least of the 3 challenges.

African Catfish Fingerlings

One of the major challenges in African catfish farming has to do with the quality of the fingerlings. Fingerlings are the seed with which you grow your catfish, without quality fingerlings, your African catfish farm does not stand a chance at profitability. Despite this, many new catfish farmers, have no option but to buy African catfish fingerlings from established hatcheries.

Once you hatch catfish, within the first 2 weeks, you would see some outgrow the rest, the difference is massive, it is these fast growers that are preferred for good profits, however, when you purchase from a hatchery, you have no idea if you are purchasing these fast growers or not?

While some hatcheries are great and would only supply you with quality fingerlings, the most innovative approach you can decide on is to grow your own fingerlings. This would take the gamble out of the equation, giving you certainty about the quality of your fingerlings.

Producing African catfish fingerlings isn’t that much of a difficult task, in fact, we recommend anyone producing anywhere above 10,000 fingerlings of African catfish take time to learn how to produce catfish fingerlings themself.

It cost less to set up a catfish hatchery on your own farm than it cost purchasing over 10,000 fingerlings in Ghana.

High Cost of Feed

One of the biggest challenges in African catfish farming has to do with the extremely high cost of catfish fish feed. To successfully produce African catfish you need good quality fish feed for your fish to feed on, the problem is that these fish feed are extremely expensive, so much so, depending on it entirely would make your catfish farming business unprofitable.

The challenges in African catfish farming are enormous but if I am to stick to one, I would say the high cost of feed is an extreme demotivation factor for any catfish farmer, especially in Ghana.

At the time of writing this, a 2mm size of feed in Ghana cost 400 cedis, while a 4.5mm size cost 345 Ghana cedis.

Most of these commercially available feeds have a weight-to-body conversion ratio of 1.2 even for the best farmers.

When we input this into our catfish production cost calculator for 10,000 fingerlings fed to table size, one requires almost 350,000 Ghana cedis, to make matters worse, the price of 1kg of African catfish in Ghana is around 30 cedis per 1 kg.

This means that even if you do not have any mortality whatsoever, and manage to grow your fish to 1kg on average, you would still run a deficit of 50,000 ghana cedis or more.

This is concerning and has led many farmers to stop production altogether. To make money producing African catfish in Ghana, a farmer must be skilled in using innovative approaches to overcome such challenges.

At Farm Amelio, we utilize innovative approaches such as the use of natural and organic feeds, severely limiting the use of commercial fish feed, and it has produced good results.

This brings us to number 2 of the top 3 innovative approaches to overcoming challenges in African catfish farming: Use duckweeds, and maggots from black soldier flies to produce your own fish feed or as a direct source of feed.

Duck weeds, Azolla, and maggots can cut down your cost of production severely, as they are cheap to produce.

At Farm Armelio, while practicalizing these, we came to a quick conclusion that maggots from BSF are the best solution, it is easier to produce, have much higher weight, and do not require as much space for huge production levels.

The Market

The biggest challenge in African catfish farming especially in Ghana has to do with the seemingly underdeveloped market for catfish, and a higher preference for tilapia.

Despite these rising costs of catfish production in Ghana, the price of fish has not risen comparatively. 2 mm size catfish feed cost barely 120 cedis in 2021, at the time, 1 kg worth of catfish costs just 17 cedis, today that same 2 mm feed is selling for 400 cedis excluding the cost of transportation to your site, and however, the cost of 1kg catfish has increased only to 30 to 35 cedis.

While the cost of production has increased by over 300%, the cost of the finished product has only increased by 100%

The market, characterized by middlemen, point and kills, etc, has not responded adequately to the rising cost of production.

Amazingly, even when you smoke your catfish, the market wants to buy it at a slightly lower price than if you were to sell it fresh.

This leads us to number 3 of the top 3 Innovative approaches to overcoming challenges in African catfish farming.

These issues arise from an underdeveloped catfish market in Ghana. When you take other fish produce like salmon, tilapia, etc. their frozen forms are what sell more, unfortunately, when it comes to African catfish, there seems to be no market for frozen catfish.

No one has developed it yet, and we hope to change that in the coming months, to create more markets for African catfish in Ghana.

What’s more? there is also the export market, Catfish is among the top 10 fish eaten globally, and the potential for export is great, tapping into that, would help provide much higher profit margins.