Monday, April 13, 2015

Why We Became Tilapia Farmers

Hi, My name is Mary and together with my husband we run a tilapia farm here in Brazil. Through this blog I would like to tell you how we have done it and also how other tilapia farmers here in Brazil operate their farms.

Perhaps you have considered starting your own fish farm and wondered if it is possible without experience. The answer to that is a resounding Yes! My husband and I had no experience in fish farming yet we were able to rear, sell, and profit by this. That isn't to say every decision we made was perfect they weren't. We read a lot on the internet and listened to ideas of other local fish farmers.

Sometimes though, you can analyze an idea to death and not get anywhere. We jumped in feet first, got some advice regarding quantity of fish, and ordered our first fish. I will be discussing more about quantity of fish for lake size in future blog posts.
I first would like to tell you how and why we started raising tilapia. In fact, before arriving in Brazil in 2009, I had never even heard of the fish as it wasn't sold in the UK for consumption. My husband knew the fish but only as a tropical fish for aquariums.

When we decided to move to Brazil, our idea was to run a small guesthouse for kitesurfers and other tourists who would wanted low cost accommodation. We came with drawings of our potential guest chalets which had been prepared for us in the UK. Our land here is 3.5 hectares, about 8 acres so we had plenty of space for these chalets.

Upon arriving we were thrilled at the space, the climate, and the abundant wildlife right on our doorstep. Unfortunately our little piece of paradise was quickly darkened. After being here just 12 days we were robbed in our home. Three masked men attacked us in the early evening. My husband saw them rushing at him and managed to hit one of them with a Maglite flashlight right on his temple. As they knocked my husband off the back step he fell about a meter to the ground. My husband is a below knee amputee and when he fell, his prosthetic leg came off. One of the thieves, put his knee on my husband's neck to hold him down and put a gun to his temple. The second of the three came in, grabbed a knife and held it to my throat whilst the third ran through the house looking for valuables.

Having just arrived with little more than a couple of suitcases, we didn't have much. What they did take was my husband's camera equipment, our passports, and car documentation. You cannot believe the hassle this caused us. Although the loss of these things cost us a lot of time, money and emotional stress, the biggest problem was we didn't feel safe and we felt like victims. If something like this has never happened to you, it is hard to explain the constant nagging fear of it happening again. I went to sleep with a crow bar, and a knife under the bed. If a dog barked I was at window at night looking out. After putting bars on the doors and windows, several kilometers of barbed wire fencing, security lights around the house and getting dogs we felt we did as much as we could.

It was because of this we changed our plans regarding building the chalets. How could we possibly keep tourists safe if we couldn't keep ourselves safe? I think we were both suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome after having arrived from England where even the police don't carry guns. We spent the late afternoon fishing in the lake in front of our house. I think this helped us recover some normality in our lives. We knew we had to earn an income but we didn't know from what.

One of our neighbors suggested netting our lake and selling the fish. We didn't have the slightest idea who to contact to do this, where to sell them or what we should ask for them. A man we had helping us with our gardening said he could organize it. He contacted a man he knew and they began pulling the fish out.
Seeing the amount of fish coming out, I thought to myself there is no way they could sell that many and keep the others fresh whilst doing so. As we didn't have scales, my husband went with the other men to the local shops. We had agreed we would get paid R$3.50 a kilo.

My husband arrived home about 20 minutes later with cash in hand. Every store they went to wanted what we were selling. It was at that point we knew what we were going to do as a business.

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