An exciting day today February 10, 2017 when we harvested the first four (4) bunches of matooke (mpologoma) and cassava from our lusuku. Onto a market free feeding frenzy
We have been working on setting up a recirculating aquaculture system to support tilapia farming, and currently we have been able to get a greenhouse like effect using a mix of wood panels with plastic pipes to get the warm environments. Next is to get pumps circulating the water and the filtration – both solid and bio-filters running before bringing the next batch of fry probably in March 2017.
Some of the key challenges for a lusuku are weed manageent, maintaining the fertility of the soils plus dealing with droughts especially with the unpredictable rains currently being experienced around the country.
Mulching provides a natural and organic measure of combatting all the challenges above but with its own constraint of finding suitable plant material in appreciable quantities to provide an adequate layer. Our drive to focus on staying away from chemical fertilizers and herbicides/pesticides is a further driver for our push to mulching.
What we have done:
- Provided 3 feet separation from the banana stools to the mulch
- Addition of ash (from regular charcoal based cooking) in the space without mulch to control nematodes and other pests
- Cutting off the dried out leaves to provide additional plant material for the mulch
Just before the next rains in March 2017, we shall look to add cattle and goat dung for manure.
As part of the expansion of the fish operations, the next phase is to improve the amount of control over the conditions within the ponds. Currently the water is only changed once in 3-4 days depending on the weather conditions.
The plan is:
- Setup RAS circulation with solid settlement and bio-filters (Ultra-violet light based)
- Setup a solar system to power the pumps moving the water
- Add a covering over the tanks to produce a “green-house” like effect to maintain the water temperatures in ranges that are ideal for tilapia
A exciting day, our new batch of Isa Brown layers from Asiima Agri-Consult Limited makes 36 weeks and 2 days, finally hits 90% productivity. The productivity journey has been as follows:
- First egg – 19 weeks
- 85% to 87% for 10 weeks straight from week 27 to 36
Our secret so far is building on prior experience:
- Feed quality – this is outsourced to a supplier whose quality and reliability have been consistent over r the last 3 years
- Formula – we r using a basic formula to leave room for improvement as the birds grow older
- Biosecurity – use lime at the entrance, also adding a little to the litter, routine spraying outside the houses on a weekly basis. Nobody is allowed into the site – not guests
- Vigilant management – the operations manager spends an equivalent of 3 days at the site every week with random visits to support farm management
- Fanatical record keeping – diligent record keeping to track trends, and spot patterns in behavior
- Fortnightly assessment by a vet as an preventive management pattern
At the same time we are preparing for a new batch of chicks, so repairs to an existing house are underway by plastering the walls exposed to the birds, repairing the floor and replacement of chicken wire mesh.
Once the repairs are completed, a contractor has been hired to disinfect the house which will be the subject of another sharing session
6 months down the road from when we started the aquaculture project, growing tilapia, this is our half year report card:
What Went Well
- There are now two tanks of 3000 (6 month old fish) and 6,500 (2 month old fry)
- Acquired fresh water testing kits to ascertain the quality of water at changing, however the team better understands how to use behavior cues like response to feeding, color of water to compliment the water testing
- Changed feed providers from Ugachick to Sabara feeds which provide better floating capability, at half the price and the fish seem to prefer them too.
What Did Not Go Well
- Bought too much initial feed – about 60kg due to recommendation from a sales agent at a feed supplier on later analysis found that they did not even understand the core numbers for the feed they were selling
- Initial tank design was using plastic sheeting with wooden poles – struggled alot with maintenance of the tank which was 27″ x 12″
- When we moved to concrete tanks, there were structural weaknesses in the construction that led to one of the tanks breaking fortunately with no injuries. The breakage also damaged the plastic sheeting tank forcing an emergency evacuation of all the fish.
- The day of the incident with the tanks, was the same day we had 10,000 new fry from the hatchery, so we had no choice but mix 4 month fingerlings with the fry together in a single tank. And the older fish ate the fry!!! Who can believe that Tilapia are cannibalistic – stress, cramped conditions may do that
What does the future look like
- Planning to purchase and setup a solar driven submersible pump to support aeration to improve stocking density
- Setup a third tank to help reduce the sell off cycle times
As always a couple of photos …
Feeding 4 month old fish in the new tank – May 2016