The Quintessential Aquaculturist

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Ajagunna feeding the fishes

Fish farming is a business with huge potential. In this report, Ugo Aliogo writes about a young entrepreneur making huge progress in this space

“My decision to go into farming came out of two things: Passion and Interest. I believe the earlier you pursue your life and dreams the better. For me, I see a lot of dimension to agriculture that has not been explored and I think I need to do that. A lot can still be done in the area of technology and data management.”

The above excerpt chronicles the story of a young man named Ajagunna Joseph, whose foray into farming began as a childhood dream. His desire to walk this path was borne out interest and passion for the agro-sector.

His journey in farming dated back many years ago, when he began working with his father in the farming business. The farming business was a fish farm and the fishes were being raised in an earthen pond which is like a natural environment for them. Ajagunna followed up with the activities anytime, he was able. He saw future prospect in the business, and decided to use his father’s fish farm to train himself to understand the nitty-gritty of the business.

“My journey and interest in farming started many years back when my Dad started a farm business. I always look forward to the adventure of climbing the wooden bridge to get to the farm then. It was a fish farm and the fish were being raised in an earthen pond which is like a natural environment for them. I followed up with the activities anytime I was able to knowing fully well that I could venture into such a business in the future.

“My decision to go into farming came out of two things: Passion and Interest. I believe the earlier you pursue your life and dreams the better. For me, I saw a lot of dimension to agriculture that has not been explored and I think I need to do that. A lot can still be done in the area of technology and data management,” noted Ajagunna.
To build an intellectual foundation for his fish farming pursuit, he went for a few months internship programme in a farm (PI Farms) in Ilorin, Kwara State, while studying for his Masters degree. The internship programme gave him the opportunity to update skill and knowledge in the fishing business and it was also an opportunity for him to meet key players in the business.

In 2017, he was shortlisted to attend a training for emerging entrepreneurs organized by the US Consulate General, Lagos and FSD VTE. Ajagunna, has also attended events on exportation organized by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and other online trainings programmes, “I was selected by the US consulate General, Lagos and FSD to share my business success story in Port Harcourt with emerging entrepreneurs in April, 2018.”

Since starting the Aquint Farm, Ajagunna has recorded some little pockets of successes for a business he started with about 500 juvenile and I have been able to grow up to 3000 fishes and he has done this under a very stable and planned analysis, “it is a cycle and the process is repetitive.”

According to him: “At the moment I have not accepted any loan offer even though I was close to collecting one from a Micro Finance bank having almost completed all the processes but declined.
“Like I observed from learning, it is not so good to start a business with loans. You might just get yourself into a mess. You will need to start with what you have where you are first. I started with family and friends and was able to stabilize after a while. I will consider getting loans maybe later for certain kind of expansions and innovations. However, I won’t reject an easy offer.

“Market is everywhere; you just have to locate yours. We have been able to locate some of ours through various processes. For now, we sell majorly to individuals, leisure centres, restaurants and bar and others. We get some customers through referrals. For the records, I have been encouraged by Mr. Tonye Cole of Sahara Energy who has patronized my product amongst other great entrepreneurs.”

Challenges Facing the Business
Some of the major challenges he has faced in the business has been mitigated due to the internship training he undergone in PI Farms in Ilorin. The training gave him a lot of insight about the business and his boss provided the guiding light through the teaching and instructions he passed down to him.
He added: “However, market is a major challenge. We have paid prices in this through one on one marketing, online marketing and others, while still searching for expansion because once you fix the problem of market, you have fixed everything.

“Finance is another challenge, but that was managed with the help friends and family. I look forward to benefitting from any of the various schemes or loans the government has put in place to assist farmer in order to expand the business. I have two staffs and one good thing is they have waited, stayed and believed the process. This has actually helped the business increase grow.”

Potential of Fish Farming
According to him, there are a lot of potential in the business, but this has been limited because of proper storage facilities. However, he added that many of the potentials that there should exist, would have will come from finished products, communication and technology.

Ajagunna, further explained that the industry has products such as processed smoked fish, frozen fish, fish snack and others, “all these areas have great prospects that anyone considering looking into doing business in fish farming (Catfish) can explore or invest in.”

Ajagunna said: “Some of the major challenges I should have faced has been reduced as a result of the internship I attended from PI Farms in Ilorin. I was able to learn a lot from my Boss. I can actually estimate how much I need for a particular result (all things been equal) etc. having put every other thing into consideration. This helps in proper cost analysis and projections and aids better preparation.

“However, market is a major challenge. We have paid prices in this through one on one marketing, online marketing etc. and still searching for expansion because once you fix the problem of market, you have fixed everything.
“Finance is another challenge, but that was managed with the help friends and family. I look forward to benefitting from any of the various schemes or loans the government has put in place to assist farmer in order to expand the business.

“There are a lot of potential in the business which have been limited because of proper storage facilities. However, many of the potentials we should have will come from finished products, communication and technology. For now, the industry has products as processed smoked fish, frozen fish, fish snack and others. All these areas have great prospects that anyone considering looking into doing business in fish farming (Catfish) can explore or invest in.

“Yes I was able to because I started small, picked up quickly and expanded. The government is doing quite ok in agriculture now by making funds available but I think they should make the accessibility easier for small scales of business. The government can also use its influence to provide a sustainable market for farmers so there won’t be fear of sales when during investment.

“Well, as we know Nigeria dropped a step down the ease of doing business index in 2018. However, Lagos State Government is doing its best to endeavor businesses strive properly in the state and I think the ease of doing in Lagos is fair enough for Agriculture. The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund is actually doing well in helping small businesses access fund and that is a good thing.”