DST Forays Into Aquaculture’s Technology Development Board funds its first aquaculture project that uses Israeli technology

Inspired by Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, and to bring the “blue revolution”, TDB-DST supports its first aquaculture project

Realizing the potential of the fisheries sector, the Indian government has taken several measures to promote and encourage fisheries and aquaculture in the country. Last year in July, the Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy Industry launched the online course mobile application “Matsya Setu” to spread the latest aquaculture technologies in fresh water to aquaculturists across the country.

In a final moment, the Technology Development Board (TDB), a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India has funded its first-ever ‘aquaculture’ project using Israeli ‘state-of-the-art’ technology for the production of Tilapia fish. The board supported Fountainhead Agro Farms Pvt Ltd. (Fountainhead), based in Navi Mumbai, for ‘Advanced and intensive male tilapia aquaculture project with Israeli technology“, says today Press release by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

TDB has drafted a mutual agreement, to provide loan assistance of Rs. 8.42 crores out of the total project cost of Rs. 29.78 crores to the company.

Tilapia‘ has become one of the most productive and traded food fish in the world. Tilapia farming has become commercially popular in many parts of the world and fishing experts have dubbed tilapia “water chicken” due to its rapid growth and low maintenance culture. Today, if there is a fish that could be named world fish, one cannot think of a better name than Tilapia.

In order to facilitate the farming of Tilapia in India in a responsible manner, Fountainhead is considering setting up a complete production chain (from farming to complete fish) in Mudhol (Karnataka). The company aims to produce 500 tons of tilapia, to be grown from imported broodstock “Hermon” from the Nir David fish farm in Israel.

Hermon is a hybrid of two selected strains of Tilapia, namely Oreochromis Niloticus (Male) and Oreochromis Aureus (Female), and is known for its special characteristics such as high growth rate; low temperature resistance.

Fountainhead site under construction for aquaculture [Image – fafpl.co.in]
Fountainhead pioneered conventional Indian Big Carp (IMC) fish farming in Mudol, Karnataka by converting sugar cane fields into earthen ponds and drawing water through pipelines from the river. It has specialized over the years to cultivate a particular breed of IMC from the seedling stage to adult fish, the most conducive to the water and soil properties of the established location of the site spanning 16 acres of land.

The company has adopted advanced Israeli technology from Aquaculture Production Technology Limited (APTIL), Israel (under a technology service agreement signed in October 2020) for landlocked sites through closed-loop agriculture for arid areas with seasonal water supply from rivers, which can be replicated all over India in multiple arid landlocked places with reasonable water sources. In order to adapt to Indian conditions, the complete engineering of the facility is tailored to the requirements of site conditions such as land availability, water availability, weather conditions, surrounding resource availability, soil conditions, topography.

Mr. Rajesh Kumar Pathak, IP&TAFS, Secretary, TDB said that “The government. of India has given special attention to the fisheries sector with a view to economically improving the fishing community of India through the “blue revolution”. The sector has great export potential, especially “tilapia fish” given its huge demand in the global market. Also, the imported technology being ‘one of a kind’ will be a great addition to Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), Hon’ble PM’s ambitious scheme, which aims to double export earnings to Rs.1, 00,000 crore from the fishing industry.

Fishing is one of the fastest growing sectors among the primary production sectors. The sector plays a vital role in the economic and overall development of the country, also known as the “nascent sector”, it is poised to bring immense potential through equitable and inclusive growth. The sector is recognized as a powerful engine for providing jobs to 14.5 million people and ensuring the livelihoods of 28 million fishers in the country.

A few months ago, AquaExchange, a comprehensive technology-driven platform serving India’s multi-billion dollar shrimp and fish ecosystem, raised $3 million in pre-Series A funding from Endiya Partners and Accion Venture Lab, and others. AquaExchange’s IoT-based technology helps Indian shrimp and fish farmers improve productivity and increase profits

In particular, to promote fishing, the cabinet under the chairmanship of the Honorable Prime Minister has proposed ‘Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)’ to provoke ‘blue revolution‘ through the sustainable and responsible development of the fisheries sector in India.

The PMMSY program aims to increase fish production to 220 lakh metric tons by 2024-2025, at an average annual growth rate of around 9%. The ambitious program also aims to double export earnings to Rs.1,00,000 crore and generate about 55 lakhs of direct and indirect employment opportunities in the fisheries sector over the next five years.

Ruby A. Robillard