In the first week of February this year, I went to Akbar Hossain's fish farm in Chapainawabganj's Bulonpur where no one had to go down to the pond to catch fish and get wet. Everyone was fishing from the concrete platform on the banks of the ponds. Workers standing beside the makeshift channels beside the ponds were bringing the fish up using different nets, used for different varieties of fish from different channels and you would have been really surprised to see that. We are now at the age of the fourth industrial revolution. With the advancement of technology, revolutionary changes are constantly taking place in the field of production. Agriculture is becoming an important chapter in this century. With the advent of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence technology (AI), farmers are looking forward in producing more by spending less from a small space or land. Landmark changes are taking place, especially in the farming sector. The practical application of technology that could not have been imagined even five years back is surprisingly becoming effective today through flourishing applications. The information about advanced technology in developed countries is spreading in every corner of the world. The educated young entrepreneurs of our country are also getting the latest news on the internet. It can be said that agricultural technology is constantly knocking on the farmers' door. From fruits to poultry, dairy and fisheries, all sectors of farming are changing with the touch of technology. In recent times, the youth's interest in fish farming is showing the dream of a new silver revolution. Fish farming technologies like Biofloc technology (BFT), Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) for indoor fish farming have become very popular. The bottom clean raceway system also became popular in time's course.
The main obstacle in fish farming is excess ammonia and lack of oxygen in the pond water or reservoirs. Somehow, if the amount of oxygen can be increased by removing ammonia waste from the water, it is possible to produce more. Akbar Hossain of Chapainawabganj has brought a new technology in fish farming, which is entirely a different one indeed, known as, in-pond raceway system (IPRS). Akbar is counting more profit by cultivating more fish in a small space.
Dear readers, you may remember, in November 2016, I visited Akbar's fish farm and wrote about it. I was surprised to see the changing agricultural initiatives in the Barind region. Akbar was highly inspired by watching my programme Hridoye Mati O Manush (Soil & People in Heart) and built a huge fish farm with 36 ponds on 20 hectares of land. He has many other trees and fruit plants on his agricultural farm. He planted 400 malta plants right beside the ponds while 500 Vietnamese coconut plants are also there. There are 600 dragon fruit trees, papaya trees as well as lots of banana trees on the farm. He gets Tk 2 lakh (USD 2360) every year by selling the bananas. Akbar also has his rice mill in his agricultural compound. A beautiful pigeon house is there. In 2016, I was surprised to see his farm. Because, he started many new practices, especially in fish farming. An aerator was used to provide adequate oxygen to the fish in all the ponds. When feeding fish, there was an auto-feeder and it was not a manual method of feeding the fishes. As a result, food wastage was prevented and a certain amount of food was given to the fishes at specific times.
This time, when I went to Akbar's fish farm, known as Nawab Hi-Tech Fish Farm, I was amazed to see his new technology and great progress in fish farming. Akbar has revolutionized fish farming using in-pond raceway system technology. As far as I know, this is the first-ever fish farm in the country that is using IPRS. There are two farms in India and three in Pakistan that are using this technology, alongside the big game-changers like China. Akbar's farm is the largest in South Asia in terms of size. IPRS is an American fish farming technology. China has made great strides in fish farming over the past few years using technology and became quite successful. The speciality of this fish farming method is more quality fish can be produced in less water.
In these few years, the farm has become even bigger. Earlier, there were 36 ponds. Now they increased up to 43. Thirteen concrete channels have been already made in a 60 bigha (8 hectares) pond which follows the IPRS system. Rest of the ponds in the increased area are doing the regular fish farming. Artificial currents are being produced in the channels through raceway technology connected to the pipeline. Oxygen is always being created in the flowing water. The fish of the channel is getting the current and environment of the river. As a result, six times more fish can live there than that the usual one. There are different types of fish in each channel. Akbar said due to the provision of food and proper care with the help of technology, the fish grows fast and there is no outbreak of disease. Organic manure is made by filtering fish waste and leftover food from the water with the help of a machine, which is being used in the cultivation of vegetables on the banks of the pond. Each stage of fish farming is so transparent that the quality of the fish is always at the top. The fish bears a river-grown look and tastes the same as the river.
I was talking to Akbar while walking along the paved edge of the channel. He said he went to China to check out the IPRS technology. Then he returned to the country and built a fish farm with this technology, imported from China last year. Chinese technicians and engineers came to Bangladesh and installed the equipment and tools, necessary for the IPRS. The investment for technology in the farm is more than Tk 5 crore (USD 560,000). Akbar wanted to start fish farming using IPRS technology from the beginning of 2020. But the impact of the coronavirus outbreak has delayed the process. He was saying that the amount of fish that can be produced in 600 bighas of water will be produced now in 60 bighas by using IPRS technology. It is possible to produce fish three times a year from each channel. In other words, fish can be farmed three seasons in a single year. Akbar's calculations say, for two seasons a year he will get 2,000 tonnes of fish from 60 bighas. Its market value will be about Tk 10 crore (USD 1120000). It means, he is expecting a profit of Tk 5 crore (USD 560000) in the first year.
In addition to food security, we now have to think about safe food. There is no alternative of using technology in the farming sector. In the last few decades, we have seen a trend of fish farming in different regions of the country and farmers are digging ponds on their cultivable lands. Although, we are moving onward to fish farming, we're losing croplands for agricultural production. If the farm is built with IPRS technology, more fish can be found in less space. It will not be necessary to dig thousands of ponds by destroying croplands. To make the fisheries sector more profitable, the government should take necessary steps for facilitating these technologies first and it would certainly open the door for fish export. Like Vietnam and Myanmar, we can earn foreign exchange by exporting fish. During 1990 to 1995, we had to import Rui-Katla fish, worth crores of taka from India and Vietnam. Now there is no need for that. We have succeeded in meeting the country's demand. Fish farmers like Akbar are completely prepared to capture the quality fish market abroad. Now the first step is most required and that is to secure the international fish market through both public and private initiatives showcasing such brilliant efforts from Bangladeshi entrepreneurs working in this sector with the latest technologies the world has offered.