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Selecting your fish

One of the critical and integral parts of designing commercial aquaculture or integrated aqua systems is the selection of the right fish.  Often clients will have a goal in mind eg: grow 100 ton of fish per year.  This is a reasonable goal to have but how you intend to grow it and the capital investment cost will depend greatly on the availability of fingerlings, the culture technique (extensive or intensive) and at what size you buy them in and what size will sell on the market. During your feasibility study you will find several species of fish that might be suitable to your business planning.  Avoid saying, “I want to grow this fish, because I like it, or you think it is very high value”.  You will quickly find out why they have a high value.  Grow the fish that have the following attributes aside from the legalities and climate considerations: [icon_list id=”2″] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Fingerlings are readily available at a sustainable price. Some species of fish, such as Tandanus tandanus (catfish) can be quite expensive in comparison to other species. If your sale price justifies the cost, go for it but keep in mind fingerlings costs can make up to 8% of your operational budget.[/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]If fingerlings are not available the breeding techniques must be known and you know yourself or someone that has hatchery technician experience.  This requires another system for holding brood-stock and hatching which must be bio-secure.  These additional facilities need not be large but they can be expensive.[/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Acceptable mortality during nursery stage (specifically) and other stages of their growth.  This is an important piece of the costing puzzle and often it is overlooked or even guessed.  Sure it can be difficult to estimate what percentage will be culled (intentionally) or die (unintentionally). Be sure to refer to other production results or ask the hatchery you plan to purchase from.  If you or your staff are experienced there is a high chance you will replicate these mortality results.  However, if you or your staff are not experienced in the culture of your chosen species, the moralities will be much higher.  For example you may buy a fingerling for $0.40 and have a mortality of 50%, now your cost of the fingerlings is $0.80 each[/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Formulated fish feed available for the specific species or similar species.  While there are alternate feeds being tested at a commercial level, wait until that testing is complete and confirmed.  For example, do not base your feeding rates and costs on growing an insect as a feed.[/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Culture techniques are known and have been proven successful in the method you intend to use.  This is important for every grower.  I can not count how many people have attempted a new species not previously successful only to find the reasons why at their own expense.[/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]The fingerlings are weaned or can be easily weaned onto commercial diets.  Some species, Murray Cod for example, are initially raised on live feeds which are not practical to use as the fish get larger.  At a specific size, the fish will be weaned to take up a commercial pellet.  This can be done yourself or the hatchery will do this for you and supply you are larger weaned fingerling as much higher costs (up to $4 per fish).[/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]The hatchery can produce the fingerlings for supply that meets your production planning or your planning meets the fingerling supply.  Take Rainbow Trout for example, here in Australia fingerlings may not be available all year round so you may only get one batch in.  This supply will determine how you will set up your production especially if you are not breeding the fish yourself.  Where as other species are available in 3 or 4 batches per year which will suit batch production which is the most suitable for recirculating aquaculture systems[/icon_list_item] [/icon_list] In short selecting the right fish is one of the most important decisions you will make when starting a farm.  Make sure the species ticks all the boxes. Availability suited to production Production technique in known Commercial feed is available Mortality rates are known Cost is sustainable Weaned onto commercial feed…

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