[Startup Interview] David Finchman, Director, Tilapia Farming, South Africa
David Finchman is the Director of Tilapia Farming company in South Africa that is looking todevelop the infant industry across Africa and the value chain within the insatiable markets which exist. It is already operational in eight countries. He explains.
Tell us a bit about Tilapia Farming and your role in the company
Tilapia has become one of the World’s most farmed fish species. 100 countries actively farm Tilapia. Tilapia is indigenous to Africa and the Oreochromis niloticus (Nile Tilapia) has been selected as the best commerialised species to farm with.
The Tilapia has a soft, white flesh with a mind flavour, this allows the chef/cook to prepare the fish in a 100 different ways suited to the simplest of paletes to the richest, spiciest, complex meals. It is consumed aross cutures, religions and socio economic groups. Tilapia is a great white fish replacement for hake and cod and other proteins, chicken, beef and pork.
As a company founder and director my focus has been how to develop this infant industry across Africa and the value chain within the insatiable markets which exist. This can only really be achieved by exponentially growing the production. Too few large scale commercial developments have happened in Africa over the past 30 years. Huge investments in USD have been poured into developing subsistance farmers, these have shown very little return in production and certinly very few in profitability. Given these factors we focussed on;
- Farming Processes
- Water and Energy
- Training and Skills Development
- Developing the market and the value chain
This has been achieved through research, collaboration and building a strong network.
Who are your clients?
Our main clients are new entrants to the industry, small and mediun scale farmers, a few commercial entry level farmers and a few Government (RSA and Botswana) and NGO clients.
What gives your business the competitive edge?
Our biggest strengths come from our experience and knowledge and the client interaction and time and effort we put in to providing the information, answering the questions and devloping the clients project process and journey into Tilapia Farming. Our objective is to take the client from initial wanting to farm Tilapia to farming Tilapia and getting the product onto plates.
How has the market responded to your services?
Excellently, from visiting our website, to visiting the farm, engaging in training to investing in single and or multiple systems. Over 400 APU (Aquaculture Production Systems) in the African market across 9 countries in 3 years.
Why do you think that is so?
We are providing a solution to fish demand and supply, providing skills and employment. We have opened the industry to many who would never have considered entering it or would have been afforded the opportunity.
What is Tilapia Farming bringing to the aquaculture sector that isn’t present at the moment?
Modular, scalable systems that will allow massive increases in production, access to fresh locally farmed fish. The potential to increase agricultural production of cereals, grains, insect farming. Facilities from which to collect data and carry out research and development. Employment opportunities across the value chain.
What is your contribution to the growth of agriculture and specifically the aquaculture sector in in the eight countries that you are in operation?
Imported Chinese fish is having an impact on the markets and prices. There are insufficient dedicated Tilapia Feed Mills and too few commercial hatcheries supplying quality fingerlings at the right time and right prices. The market still demands larger fish 500g+ wich are still available from the natural resources. Farmed fish are sold at 300-350g. Power supply, cost and reliability is always an issue. In other countries the impacts of one APU are seeing is believing. Clients are engaging on expansion, raising funds, buying/aquiring more land. Farming in the urban environmet will play a role in the expansion of fish production and demand.
What do you consider the biggest threat to your business?
The biggest risks will come from new diseaeses as volumes increase and fish are moved form one source to another. Being closed RAS systems these risks can be mitigated through education, bio security measures and monitoring.
Having had a great deal of experience in the aquaculture sector, what in your opinion is the future of the sector in South Africa and the region?
The future is bright, the roll out of technology, farms and farming practices will require investments and people. Food security, nutrition, eductaion all have a role to play in the growth of the sector. Innovation and entrprenuerial devlopments will advance the pace of delivery, research and growth of the sector.
What kind of collaborations do you expect and need for Tilapia Farming to succeed?
We are collaborating with the University of Johannesburg, The City of Johannesburg, The Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market, Venture Capitalists and Government Departments and civil society, all are begining to contribute to growth and ultimately the success of the sector
Where do you want to take the company in 2020 and in the long term?
Expansion of the hatchery is a priority so that we can continue to supply and meet the current demands of our farmer with quality fingerlings. The development of the farm into a research laboratory site for the University of Johannesburg. The expansion of our farmer network to secure the supply of Fresh Tilapia for the market and in the mid term future supply of Tilapia to a worldclass processing facility. “A Million Fish a Day Plan”
What is the latest news from Tilapia Farming?
Tilapia will be the “protein” that feeds Africa. It will not only be Tilapia as we know it, whole Fresh Fried, Grilled Fish. It will take on many forms and be available from most food outlets. Tilapia farming will also be core to developing the Aquaponics sector in Africa. “Watch this space!”
Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with startup businesses in Africa.
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