Tell us about your company, what do you do at Organic Ilemba Limited?
We are a fish farming company that rears fish for commercial purposes. Organic Ilemba Limited was founded in 2018 and registered on November 2019. The problem that we are trying to solve is the increasing demand for fish in Kenya and East Africa. Some of the factors contributing to the increased demand for fish are population growth and increased awareness about the nutritional benefits of fish. Unfortunately, the country’s wild fisheries are struggling to meet this demand and that is where we come in. We have a fish pond located in Taita Taveta county with a capacity to produce about 2500 fish per harvest.
Do you do this alone or do you have a team that supports you?
I have nine team members including me. Seven are full-time employees who are me the founder, we also have a Finance officer, Chief operations officer, Chief customer officer, Technology officer, Chief marketing officer, and someone who feeds the fish and maintains the ponds. The other two are nutritionists who work part-time. I engage them from time to time to advise us on the type of feeds to feed our fish.
Which markets do you currently serve?
We are only serving Taita Taveta county. We have an output of about 2500 per harvest so we do not have enough to export to other counties in the country.
What do I need to be able to start a business in fish farming?
You need a substantial amount of capital because at the very least you need a fish pond. Also when you are choosing a location for your fish pond some of the factors that you need to consider is to choose a place with a lot of water, preferably near a source of water and high temperature. Fish thrive in high temperatures. You also need to educate yourself on fish farming to be able to understand the basics like the type and size of fingerlings to buy, the type of feeds to give to the fish, etc.
What are the main challenges in running a business in Fish farming?
Number one is raising capital. Like I mentioned you need a fish pond to start. When I was starting I tried to apply for a loan at the bank but I was denied because my business was only an idea and I had nothing to provide as collateral. The second challenge is the lack of a streamlined market channel. The demand for fish is there however, there is no common marketplace where you will take your fish to sell. You will struggle to find your clients.
How long does it take for a fish to grow to full size?
That depends on three factors, the type of fish you are rearing, the type of fingerlings you purchase, and the type of feeds you are feeding your fish. If all these three conditions are favorable then a tilapia fish for example will take about eight months to grow to full size.
What advice do you have for an entrepreneur who wants to start a fish farming business?
You have to master the art of negotiation. Like I said the market is not streamlined so you have to get out there and find clients for yourself which requires you to negotiate. Another reason why you need to master the art of negotiation is that some clients will take advantage of you and buy your fish at a throwaway price. For example: If you are new, most likely you will not have freezers to store your fish after the harvest so that they do not go bad. Therefore you need to sell as soon as you harvest. This somehow takes away your bargaining power because you are afraid to say no to a client. After all, if they walk away and you do not get another one soon your fish will go bad.
Where do you want to see yourself in the next 3 years as a business?
Organic Ilemba Limited is in the process of creating an innovative project to transform fish farming in Kenya, improve food security, and increase Productivity and Product Value. We are sourcing funds to implement a modern way of fish farming called Recirculating aquaculture system-based farming. Instead of the traditional method of growing fish outdoors in open ponds, this system uses less space, is easy to manage, rears fish in high densities in indoor tanks within a controlled environment. These tanks can be placed on any surface and require no excavation.
You have shared great insights with us today, we would love to know you, tell us about yourself Mwambai?
Mwambai is an | #Agriprenuer | #Youth | #Farmer | #Environmentalist.
Holder of Diploma in Agribusiness, Computer science, and certificates in Hydroponics in Farming, Agribusiness management, Entrepreneurship. A Member of Alternative leadership Association in Taita Taveta and leader of Agribusiness club, member at Connect4Climate under World Bank, also a member at Civicus Alliance, Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network (GBYN), Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL), Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), YOUNGO & FARA.