IPRS technology brings new hope to fish farming

In the first week of February this year I went to Akbar Hossain’s fish farm in Chapainawabganjs Bulonpur, where no one had to go down to the pond to catch fish and get wet. Everyone fished from the concrete platform on the banks of the ponds. Workers standing next to the makeshift canals next to the ponds raised the fish with different nets used for different types of fish from different canals and you would have been really surprised to see this. We are now in the age of the fourth industrial revolution. With the advancement of technology, revolutionary changes are constantly taking place in the field of production. Agriculture becomes an important chapter in this century. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) technology, farmers are looking forward to producing more by spending less in a small space or land. Groundbreaking changes are taking place in the agricultural sector in particular. The practical application of technology that was unimaginable five years ago is now surprisingly effective thanks to flourishing applications. The information about advanced technologies in industrialized countries is spreading in all parts of the world. Our country’s educated young entrepreneurs also get the latest news on the Internet. It can be said that agricultural technology is constantly knocking on the farmers’ door. From fruit to poultry, dairy products to fishing, all areas of agriculture are changing with the touch of technology. Recently, the youth’s interest in fish farming shows the dream of a new silver revolution. Fish farming technologies such as Biofloc Technology (BFT) and the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) for indoor fish farming have become very popular. The floor-safe running track system has also become popular over time.

The main obstacle in fish farming is excess ammonia and lack of oxygen in the pond water or in the reservoirs. If the amount of oxygen can be increased by removing waste ammonia from the water, it is somehow possible to produce more. Akbar Hossain from Chapainawabganj has introduced a new technology to fish farming that is in fact a completely different technology known as the In-Pond Raceway System (IPRS). Akbar counts more profit by cultivating more fish in a small space.

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Dear Readers, you may remember that I visited Akbar’s fish farm in November 2016 and wrote about it. I was surprised to see the changing agricultural initiatives in the Barind area. Akbar was very excited about my Hridoye Mati O Manush (soil & people in heart) program 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 next to the ponds, while 500 Vietnamese coconut plants are also there. There are 600 dragon fruit trees, papaya trees and many banana trees on the farm. By selling the bananas, he receives Tk 2 lakh (USD 2360) every year. Akbar also has his rice mill on his farm land. 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 ponds. When feeding the fish, there was an automatic feeder and it was not a manual method of feeding the fish. As a result, food waste was prevented and the fish were given a certain amount of feed at certain times.

This time when I went to Akbar’s fish farm known as Nawab Hi-Tech Fish Farm, I was amazed at his new technology and the great advances in fish farming. Akbar revolutionized fish farming using In-Pond Raceway system technology. As far as I know, this is the first fish farm in the country to use IPRS. Aside from the big game changers like China, there are two farms in India and three in Pakistan using this technology. 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 with technology in recent years and has become quite successful. The specialty of this fish farming method is that more quality fish can be produced in less water.

In these few years the farm has grown even bigger. There used to be 36 ponds. Now they have risen to 43. In an 8 hectare pond that follows the IPRS system, 13 concrete channels have already been made. The other ponds in the cultivation area operate the regular fish farming. Artificial flows are created in the canals by running track technology connected to the pipeline. Oxygen is always created in flowing water. The fish of the canal gets the current and surroundings of the river. As a result, six times more fish can live there than usual. There are different species of fish in each channel. Akbar said due to the provision of feed and proper care with the help of technology, the fish is growing fast and there are no outbreaks of disease. Organic manure is made by filtering fish waste and food scraps from the water with the help of a machine that is used to grow vegetables on the bank of the pond. Each phase of fish farming is so transparent that the quality of the fish always comes first. The fish looks like a river and tastes just like the river.

I spoke to Akbar as I was walking along the cobbled edge of the canal. He said he went to China to test IPRS technology. Then he returned to the country and used this technology to build a fish farm that was imported from China last year. Chinese technicians and engineers came to Bangladesh and installed the equipment and tools required for the IPRS. The investment in technology in the farm is more than Tk 5 crore (USD 560,000). Akbar wanted to start farming fish with IPRS technology from early 2020. However, the effects of the coronavirus outbreak have delayed the process. He said the amount of fish that can be produced in 600 bighas of water is now produced in 60 bighas using IPRS technology. Fish can be produced from each channel three times a year. In other words, fish can be grown for three seasons in a single year. Akbar’s calculations say he will receive 2,000 tons of fish from 60 bigas for two seasons a year. Its market value will be Tk 10 crore (USD 1120000). This means that he expects a profit of Tk 5 crore (USD 560000) in the first year.

In addition to food security, we now need to think about safe food. There is no alternative to using technology in agriculture. Over the past few decades we have seen a trend towards fish farming in various regions of the country, and farmers are digging ponds in their cropland. Although we turn to fish farming, we are losing arable land to agricultural production. If the farm is built with IPRS technology, more fish can be found in less space. There will be no need to dig thousands of ponds by destroying farmland. To make the fishing sector more profitable, the government should first take the necessary steps to facilitate these technologies and this would certainly open the door to fish exports. As in Vietnam and Myanmar, we can earn foreign currency by exporting fish. From 1990 to 1995 we had to import Rui Katla fish, which was worth many taka from India and Vietnam. This is no longer necessary. We managed to meet the country’s demand. Fish farmers like Akbar are fully prepared to hit the quality fish market overseas. Now is the most urgent need to take the first step, which is to secure the international fish market through public and private initiatives that show such brilliant efforts by Bangladeshi entrepreneurs working in this sector with the latest technologies that the world has offered.

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