Business: Varsity graduate's determination keeps fish business alive
A basket of Coy fish at Wilfred Waichigo’s farm in Ngamwa Village Mukurweini in Nyeri County. The fish are in high demand due to their unique and diverse colours. (PHOTO: KIBATA KIHU/ STANDARD)
In his second year at the University of Nairobi in 2010, Wilfred Waichigo dreamed of becoming an Information Technology engineer. However, life had other plans for him.
“I was studying Bachelor of Science in Microprocessor Technology and Instrumentation. However, after two years, I had to drop out due to lack of school fees,” Waichigo recounts.
With a young family to fend for and little chances of formal employment, he returned home to Ngamwa village in Mukurweini constituency to try his hand at various businesses.
“I worked with various NGOs and as I continued to engage with local farmers, I realised there was untapped potential for a good business venture in ornamental fish farming,” Waichigo says.
In 2013, he spent his savings to dig his first two ponds and buy his first batch of gold fish from Sagana Fisheries in Kirinyaga County. It was a good business as goldfish reproduce quickly and are cheaper to maintain.
“Goldfish do not consume a lot of feeds and they don’t require too much space to thrive. So I was excited when I realised they were reproducing and ready for the market in just two months,” Waichigo says.
However, when he approached potential buyers he was disheartened by the prices offered.
“Goldfish fetch relatively low prices, with most sold at Sh25 to Sh30 per inch. Since they are small in size, most fish end up fetching as little as Sh60, which is a loss to me as a farmer,” Waichigo says.
Disappointed with his first attempt, he decided to do more research. He discovered Koi fish, which were fetching as much as Sh1,500 per fish due to their unique and diverse colours.
“Koi fish were first imported from Singapore and because of their variety and large sizes, they are sought after by an exclusive clientele of ornamental fish buyers, hence, the high prices,” Waichigo says.
Koi fish are very sensitive to the environment and require that ponds be lined with organic and inorganic manure so plankton can grow for the fish to eat.
For months, Waichigo scouted fish farms in Sagana and its environs looking for Koi fish. He invested Sh60,000 to buy 40 of the most colourful species he could find. Waichigo prepared his pond as instructed, but the following morning, he found all his fish in the pond had died.
“They were floating belly up and my first attempt to start Koi fish farming failed and I lost my investment. It was a very disheartening experience. I later realised I did not prepare the right ingredients for the pond,” he recalls.
Not ready to give up, Waichigo made a second attempt to breed the elusive Koi fish and his determination was eventually successful. However, he would later realise that reproducing the highly lucrative fish was not going to be easy.
“I bought one male and two female fish, but it soon dawned on me they do not reproduce easily in captivity so I had to buy reproductive hormones and inject both males and females,” Waichigo explains.