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Quality of Your Fish Counts

Planning a great design for your fish farm is only one step to success be it integrated with plants in aquaponics or stand alone.  When there is high competition out there in the market place you need a strong point of difference that sets your product aside from the rest.  It is the quality of your fish that will give you that market advantage along with consistent supply.  However, attaining a high quality result does not often go hand in hand with high production. The quality of your fish drastically changes the returned price you receive in the market and the demand for your stock.  While large volumes of lower quality fish can be profitable, that approach requires huge production to see sustainable returns.  Where as smaller production as entry into the market, controling supply within limits of the farm and focusing on the highest quality product will see you in good stead especially when the market is flooded with lower quality product. For example, the Murray Cod pictured above is considered low quality.  This is the sale price in the market and while $25 per kilo looks good, the farmer will have received around the $17 per kilo.  When this product (cleverly presented with the tails under ice) is laid out next to your high quality product, the consumer will always look to the great looking fish first then they consider price.  This is not always the case with some consumers, but it happens more often than not. What buyers are looking for the physical presentation of your fish: Does the fish shine with its natural colors Minimal handling marks Fins and tails in good condition, Eyes are clear and bright Flesh is firm And gills are rich and red Then they look at the price…. It is difficult to show two photos of fish and make a comparison but in the above, the Murray Cod meet every one of the quality check list and that is reflected in a $32 retail price with $23 per kilo to the farmer.  Note how the whole fish is shown on ice, not covered..) While  there is a cost of around $9.50 for the farmer to produce, add on some freight and packing even pulling a $17 per kilo price is good (Murray Cod is a great fish), however gaining another $6 per kilo turns a good farm into a great farm. When you grow your brand to be known as consistently high quality and when other farmers dump the same species of fish on the market for $13 per kilo, it will have very little to no impact on your selling price.  To achieve that quality you need to master the husbandry of the species and have a great system design and farm management. As they say a great farm manager can turn a poorly designed farm into a success, where as a poor farm manager can destroy the business with a great farm design. Some of the things that effect the quality of your product: Density of the fish are too high.  This will result in torn tails and injuries Feed quality and management is poor.  This will produce uneven size and shape fish Water quality is not maintained at optimum for the species.  You will get dark and discolored fish Poor handling of the fish.  Results in marks and injuries which show up when they are on ice other things like pest and disease control and lack of grading will result in lower quality fish One of the greatest challenges in farm production (and design) is managing the consistent supply of your product.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of selling all you can when you are starting out.  Great to have wonderful quality fish, but if you have none to sell every week, your buyers will quickly lose interest in supporting your product.  You must give thought to how much stock you have and will it see you through to the next season.  The worst thing you can do is have empty tanks on your farm and gaps in your production.  The result of that is all in all out and if anyone else has the same plan and get to the market first, they will get the best price, then everyone after that gets lower and lower prices.  Supply and demand; economics 101.  Control the supply to keep your market hungry for your product is no different to feeding pigs or your fish… keep em hungry for more. So when you are thinking about your farm, focus must be on your skill set and your market.  Leave the design to the professionals. Master the husbandry of the species of choice and grow a product that demands the highest price and is sort after by everyone. Don’t settle for average fish and be a price getter.  Grow wonderful fish in the right conditions, without compromise and be a price setter.    …

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