For 7 years now (since 2016), our company (Business Classroom Vision) had been working with people who want to start a fish farming business in Nigeria.
We have our associates\’ fish farms in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, etc. (about 21 states of Nigeria in total) and try to help new farmers with the experience of our associates\’ farmers
This post is about 5 important things (we call them \”secrets\”) you must understand when starting a fish business in Nigeria
(If after going through this list you need further help or practical training on one of our fish farms in your state, click here)
Following are 5 important things every Nigerian planning to start a fish farming business should know;
- Start with the fish market, not the fish pond
- Focus on the cost of running your fish farm, Not Profit
- Network with fish farmers, not bankers
- Understand fish feed & process your feed
- Farm for fun, before money
Start with the Fish market, not the fish pond
Yes, in a country of 213 million people, any food-related business must be profitable (at least, most people think so)
To make it even better for fish farming, fish accounts for around 40 percent of Nigeria’s protein intake, with fish consumption at 13.3 kg/person/per year (according to Word Fish Center)
BUT… there’s a problem… that millions of people have to eat fish every day in Nigeria doesn’t necessarily make fish farming a cash cow.
Like every other business, the market is a battlefield between many competitors; some would win and many would fail.
What do those who win do?
They understand the market, FIRST.
I know you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you but it’s the truth…
Many Nigerians started fish farming and spent hundreds of thousands of Naira to raise their fish.
But when the fishes reach table size, they have no idea who to sell them to (I know this because our company had received thousands of calls from intending and new farmers across Nigeria since 2016)
This happens because whenever Nigerians conceive the idea of starting a fish farming business, the first thing that comes to their mind is how to construct a fish pond.
These people often get busy with the technicality of the fish business;
How to build a pond, where to buy fingernails, the amount of feed and the kinds of fish feed to feed their fish, etc.
The problem with this approach to the fish farming business is that you’ve left the king out of the palace.
This is what I mean…
If you’re a man reading this post you must have heard your wife asking many times, “What do you want to eat?” BEFORE she starts cooking.
Why does she asks?
Well, she asks because she wants to cook for YOU and it makes zero sense for her to cook what you don’t feel like eating.
The same principle applies to the fish farming business.
Sam Walton said,
\”There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.\”
You want to raise your fish for some people (fish retailers, supermarkets, or fish consumers) who would pay you for the fish.
These people are the most important in your entire business plan.
They’re the king and the husband in my earlier analogy.
If you ever succeed, it’s because your customers allow you to, so you need to spend some time to understand what they really want without the usual arrogance of many Nigerians (I too know).
The first set of questions to ask yourself are;
Where are most fish sold in my town, city, or area?
Who buys those fish from the farmers?
Who (typically) is the average fish buyer/consumer?
How much do they buy 1kg, 2kg, etc. of fish?
Can you sell directly to the consumers? Do they like dried fish? Would they buy smaller (0.5kg) or bigger (2kg) fish?
Gene Buckley said,
\”Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants\”
It’s not your duty as a fish entrepreneur to tell (or assume) what your customers want.
Your duty is to get that information from them.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professor of physics or the MD of a bank.
How smart you are is your cup of tea… until you understand what your target customers ACTUALLY want, you\’re in the fish business to waste your money
The best time to understand what your target customers want is before you start your fish farming business… before you erect the pond… before buy the fingernails.
Focus on the Cost of running your fish farm, Not Profit
The goal of every fish farmer is to make a profit… a lot of it if possible.
But (as in the previous heading), reverse engineering is needed here as well.
While you want to make a profit running your fish business, your primary focus should be on the cost
One of the richest men to ever lived, Andrew Carnegie said,
“Watch the costs and the profits will take care of themselves”
Fish farmers who become successful in this business don’t do so because they wake up every day thinking about profit.
Instead, they wake up every day thinking about cost… how to manage cost, and how to reduce the cost of running their fish farm, how to let go of unnecessary extravagance… at least until you make some millions.
This however doesn’t mean you should go and buy the cheapest (poorest) things you can find in the market or feed your fish with the leftover food from your kitchen because you want to reduce cost.
It simply means that you should strike a good balance between extravagance and poor (useless) materials and things.
In other words, you want to run your fish farm with the best materials, people and feed… at the same time, you don’t want to involve in unnecessary extravagant spending.
For example, you don’t want to hire 5 people to manage a farm that 2 good people can manage.
You don’t want to build a fancy fish pond/farm to impress your wife and you don’t want to build an executive office space to show your friends who work in Zenith Bank that you have an airconditioned office like him.
You get the point… manage and watch every penny you have to spend on your fish business as though it’s your blood you’re spending and profit would follow
Network with fish farmers, not bankers
One big mistake many Nigerians make while starting a fish farming business is to think they can manage their businesses all alone.
Most of the people who call our company are already successful in something before they thought of the fish business.
Some are retired bankers.
Some are University lecturers, doctors, lawyers, or Nigerians in the diaspora.
Because these people have spent time in some professions before and they have had some successes, it’s not uncommon to perceive some confidence in their voice (rightly so).
This confidence comes as a result of some success in their last career (if I can succeed in the banking sector, I can raise fish. LOL)
The problem with this thinking is that every industry has a learning curve and being a master in one doesn’t automatically qualify you for another.
For example, if Jay Jay Okocha wants to become a musician tomorrow, he wouldn\’t say, \”Hey, I was one of the best Nigerian footballers. I should succeed without learning anything about music\”
If 2Face wants to start acting movies tomorrow, he would be foolish to think \”I don\’t need much knowledge about acting\”
Just as a footballer who wants to become a musician needs to learn new skills, coming from a different industry to start a fish business means you have a lot to learn.
Yes, our company has a practical training program which can help you to get started. See it here
Our practical training on the farm will give you a good foundation.
But you need to continue building on that foundation by having a network of acquaintances in the fish industry (farmers, fish sellers, feed sellers, etc.)
The reason why this friendship and networking are important is that iron sharpens iron.
People share what they know with their friends and associates.
Ordinarily, in our day-to-day conversations, ideas, insights, and new ways of doing things pump out of our heads.
If you still don’t get me, here is the thing….
Every industry has trade secrets… some players know what others don’t… many have skills others don’t have so having friendships or acquaintances in whatever industry you play in can help you grow your business faster than if you’re a lone ranger.
Understand fish feed & process your feed
As you probably know by now, feeding your fish is going to be where most of your capital goes, so it stands to reason that you pay attention to that and that’s why the topic of feed production comes in.
Earlier in this post, I wrote about cost management and why profit from the fish business is an illusion (as long as you don’t pay attention to the cost of running your farm)
One major area where you can manage cost is in the fish feeds.
The truth is, if you’re going to depend on imported fish feed (for example) to care for your fish from day one till table size, you most likely would make no money (or run at a loss)
I don’t know where you’re based but if you live in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, or most other Nigerian cities, it’s easy to find a fish farmer who knows about feed formulation.
For example, if you go to any major farm reserve area, there’s usually a dedicated space where different farmers go to formulate and mix their fish feed.
This doesn’t mean that every farmer on such a reserve uses the same formulation
But it means you can start a friendship with someone who can hold you by the hand (don’t be too aggressive because nobody really wants to share their secrets with a stranger).
Another easy way to go about this is if you can reach out to our company.
Many of our farmers know about feed formulation and we can easily connect you with one of our associates’ fish farmers if we\’re in your state
Check here to see if we\’re in your state
Farm for fun, before money
Let\’s say you want to be a dog breeder. What’s the first thing you’re supposed to do?
I guess… to like dogs or at least take time to familiarize yourself with dogs before you start dealing with them.
This seems to me like common sense, yet, most people don’t get it.
Over the years our company had dealt with people who want to start fish farming businesses in Nigeria yet, these people have never even been around fish all their life
And they are ready to pour their #5 Million into this business tomorrow morning.
This is what our company generally advises you to do;
- Start a dummy farm (this means a little backyard farm with few fish, just for fun)
- Start a small standard farm (after a good practical training)
- Or hire an experienced fish farmer to manage the BIG farm you want to start.
I mean, don’t be in a hurry to throw away your life savings (except your dad is Dangote, Adeleke or Tinubu…. It\’s HARD to make money… so care is needed while investing).
Take things a little slower than your emotion wants you to.
Calm down, reach out to some experienced farmers, visit a farm, go through practical training on the farm, then start with half of the money you originally budgeted and grow from there.
How our farmers can help you
Our company works hard to prepare new farmers for the challenges of the fish business just as a coach prepares his team to win a sport game.
We do this by giving you the opportunity to come to our farm (we have associates\’ farms in abou 21 states of Nigeria).
You can meet with our experienced farmers, see the farms, get practical training on the farm or even hire one of our farmers as a consultant who spends time with you on your farm to help you set up your farm professionally so you won\’t make mistakes that can cost you your life savings.
Click Here to see details on how we can use our farmers to help you