The aquaculture industry in India is one of the largest in the world, experts say. While you may be tempted to look at those at the helm of affairs when it comes to relevance in the international fish market, the real MVPs (minimum viable product) behind this impressive statistic are local farmers. Locals have for a long time been the backbone for fish farming in India and if the industry is going to break any more grounds, this is where attention should be focused; there has to be a total revision of all methods and mechanisms from production all the way to the distribution of fishes.
One entrepreneur bridging the gap for these local fish farmers is Morigaon-based Razaqul Islam, the founder of Aqua Blue Global Aquaculture Solutions. Like many other modern companies, the introduction of scientific methods to all kinds of farming is central to Aqua Blue Global Aquaculture Solutions’ existence. Their overall aim is to increase productivity by 100% and, as a result, improve its benefits economically.
India ranks third in fisheries production, and second in aquaculture. Fisheries alone has employed 145 million people and contributed to 1.07% of the GDP and generated export earnings of Rs 334.41 billion as per a recent estimate of the National Fisheries Development Board. National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research reported the projected demand would go 11.80 million metric tonnes by FY21. However Razaqul says these sectors are highly unorganized in the North East region of India, which is the reason why Assam and its neighbouring states like Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh are importing frozen fish from other parts of India.
“While growing up, I have closely observed great potential to advance in the aquaculture sector in Assam, which will open up employment and growth opportunities for our local farmers and fishermen. Thus I wanted to introduce scientific fish farming to the farmers which will foster rapid growth in production volume and economic yield. We teach and encourage them to practice modern intensive fish farming, which includes designing the production unit, study of production environment and its natural fluctuations, and understanding the stressors such as pollutants, pathogens, and parasites, etc. The idea also was to support the ‘vocal for local’ campaign while unfolding the future opportunities of aquaculture in Assam,” he says.
Before now, local farmers have had it rough when it came to the production and distribution of their products – working tirelessly to cultivate fish, all for small profits. But not anymore! With the modern solutions introduced by Aqua Blue Global, fish farming has become simpler and more cost effective, and farmers can now get good returns equivalent to the effort they put in.
Most farmers practice old school farming and convincing them to switch to these modern solutions may be a little difficult. To do this, the company has had to explain in detail the business model and how the simpler model is more economically beneficial for them.
“The most concerning issue is the low literacy rate of the local farmers. It is quite a hassle to make them understand the scientific fish farming techniques. However, our team has been constantly trying to deliver the required knowledge in the simplest version possible. We are supplying improved quality fish seeds, fish feed, and aqua medicines to the farmers at very reasonable rates. Also, we are providing end-to-end support from nursing to harvesting, and helping them find a better market where they can sell their fish. We have set up model fisheries in almost all the districts of Assam so that farmers can come and see how they can benefit from scientific farming which includes semi-intensive and intensive aquaculture systems,” Razaqul adds.
Razaqul has put it all on the line for farmers who have continued to suffer because of their strict adherence to archaic methods. It was this deep regard for premium customer service that birthed the idea for an aqua solution startup. Today, there are several entrepreneurs that also claim to have the solution to the problems local farmers face. The difference that Aqua Blue Global Aquaculture brings to the table – compared to other companies – is a genuine interest and concern for the people with real lives and real problems.
Aqua Blue Global, headquartered in Jagiroad, Morigaon, offers their services in entire Assam and also covers other North East India states like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Tripura. Their vision is to create a ‘One shop-One stop’ solution model so that farmers don’t need to be clueless while finding their inputs. Aqua Blue Global, which started with Rs 30 lakhs investment, had a turnover of Rs 6.5 crore in the last financial year. Currently they’ve about 30 hectares of fisheries of their own.
The innovative entrepreneur believes the difference is evident in the fact that he is not out to make a quick buck, but cares about improving his services to, and lives of, the locals. “Yes, the last year has been a significant year for aqua solutions startups. We have seen so many new emerging aqua solution startups in the market. We always welcome ventures with a similar vision to collaborate with us. Startups like IIMCP-incubated Jolkuwori, Mahabahu Fisheries, Assam Fisheries, Ayat Fisheries and more have collaborated with us to plan and implement better schemes for fish farmers. I strongly believe mutual sharing of ideas help in planning growth strategies for the future and at the same time boosts networking with people from every region possible,” he says.
One mantra the company wholeheartedly follows is to keep customers happy with good quality service.
“For us, customer satisfaction comes first. That is the spirit that has helped us gain so many loyal customers from all across the northeast region. More than ten thousand farmers partnered with us last year and were able to draw more benefits compared to the previous years of their business,” Razaqul says.
Although there have been many challenges along the line that may have directly tested their resolve and dedication to impacting the lives of farmers and the market as a whole, Razaqul says these challenges have not deterred him in his struggle towards sustainability in farming. His impact can be measured by studying the level of growth he has been able to achieve. “We are focusing on two different aspects of growth. The first one is providing a proper knowledge base and teaching techniques of fish farming over monetary aid. The second is to generate employment.
“Nowadays, people are running behind corporate jobs without even considering the opportunities in farming. Our aim is to open up the door of possibilities for youngsters to start farming on their own, an avenue with which we’ll be able to provide employment to many people,” he adds.
Despite the many stellar accomplishments all these years, Aqua Blue Global plans to take every individual part of its business even further by creating more specialised units targeted at addressing the problems they face. For Razaqul, the goal is to build an online hub for farmers to interact and share ideas on how to move the industry to greater heights. “I am more than happy to announce that very soon we are launching an online ecosystem exclusively for the fish farmers, aquapreneurs, and aqua traders of India. I am positive that this will be a revolutionary step in the aqua business sector. We have also recently set up a modern technology known as Re-circulating Aquaculture System (RAS) under Aqua Blue Global Aquaculture Solutions Private Limited in association with the department of fisheries, government of Assam,” he concludes.
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