Around 32 tons of fish could be produced from every 250 cubic metres using the IPRS
The visually attractive and most scientifically advanced aquaculture practice for farmable carps and catfishes, known as In-pond Raceway System (IPRS), promises a dramatic rise in fish production in Chapainawabganj.
Akbar Hossain, the owner of "Nawab Matsya Khamar Prakalpa [Nawab Fish Farm Project]" is using IPRS in his ponds to commercially produce different carps, Tilapia and Pangas.
He installed the system in altogether 20 hectares (60 bighas) of his land in Noyagola Bolunpur, located in the outskirts of Chapainawabganj district town.
"Where 300 to 400 fishes could be farmed at a time in a bigha of a traditional pond, with the IPRS up and running, about 10,000 fishes can be farmed in the same area," says Akbar, a national award winning fisheries entrepreneur, who just about two years ago used to farm fish by dividing his land into 36 ponds.
Dr Amimul Ehsan, the district fisheries officer in Chapainawabganj said: "Around 32 tons of fish could be produced from every 250 cubic metres using the IPRS. In Akbar's farm, all the conditions of Good Aquaculture Practices (GAP) have been followed, and export-quality fishes are being produced."
During an on-spot visit at Akbar's fish farm this correspondent observed the lucrative prospect of IPRS as well as its environment friendly perks which clearly sets the system apart from other methods of fish farming in the country.
In an IPRS farm, fishes are raised in cells or “raceways” within a pond. Constant water circulation is maintained for optimal water quality and to improve feed management.
The IPRS also has the potential to reduce solid waste loading in the pond by concentrating and removing it from the downstream end of raceway units. The wastes can be used as fertilizers, thus reducing the harmful impact on nature.
Water circulation, mixing and aeration are critical elements to this approach because it accelerates assimilation of organic material in the pond required for raising a high number of fishes in a comparatively smaller area.
In Akbar's farm, there are 13 raceways, where 12,000 to 20,000 pieces of fishes are being farmed in each of them.
Akbar's IPRS -- built as a fixed floor project (not a floating model), was installed on poured concrete walls that has footing with bottom drains. Each raceway has width, length and height of 5m, 25m and 2m respectively (250 cubic meter raceway volume).
The raceways are equipped with regenerative blowers. Additionally, the pond has Asian-style paddlewheels installed in the open water area, which helps mix and circulate water around the pond.
Akbar said: "The technique was first introduced in the USA in 2007. I began interested in implying it in my farm after being mesmerized seeing that such a huge quantity of fish could be farmed in such a small space.
"In 2019, an expert team from China has provided us the design for constructing the technological foundations for the farm. The system was built by local engineers and until now is being managed and maintained through support from local fisheries office.
"This technique for fish farming is very popular in China. There they have 3,000 ponds with IPRS. India has three of them and Pakistan has four," says Akbar adding the claim that his IPRS pond is the largest one in South Asia.
"I believe that the soil-condition, weather, and overall climate are much better in our country than it is in China. So this thought has also led me to bring the technology into our country. I am looking forward to exporting the fish in Europe and the Middle East.
"A river-like environment is created in the raceways, so the fish could be farmed in much less time in comparison to farming in ponds. Once the system is established, the cost will be equal to that of fish farming in ponds.”
Farmers can operate two to three raceways if they cannot afford the system in a large area, Akbar added.
Dr Amimul, the district fisheries officer says: "The IPRS technique is environment friendly and viable. River-like environment is created through circular reinforced poured concrete structures and is filled with water using advanced technology. Therefore, the taste of these fishes will be similar to that of fishes in the river.”
"Moreover, adequate oxygen is supplied in the water and all waste and harmful ammonia gas is eradicated through advanced machinery. As a result, diseases are less frequent in the farmed fishes and the production increases. At present no other method is capable of overtaking the rate of production of this method.”
"We are regularly monitoring the project. High quality fertilizer can be produced from the wastes produced in the system, which is one of the eco-friendly advantages."
When asked about the prospect of the IPRS method in Bangladesh, Dr Ehsan said: "As we have already established the system here, the fisheries department can provide experts’ assistance to any farmer who is willing to farm fishes in this technique.”
Chapainawabganj, a district that falls under the Barind region in northwestern Bangladesh was once composed of mostly barren lands.
Years back, due to the nature of land and other geographical features, it was quite difficult to produce crops. In the drought-prone Barind Tracts, people suffered from a drinking water crisis when the level of ground water fell.
As there was scarcity of water throughout the year, people never imagined investing in fish farms. Now one can see a variety of crops being cultivated there and fish farming is going on in full swing.
With the introduction of IPRS in ponds, Chapainawabganj is once again on the verge of achieving yet another milestone in agriculture despite the climate challenges and sets an example for the country.
Sources from the agriculture office say that when the IPRS is introduced in every possible fish farm in the district, 300 tons of additional fish could be produced after meeting the local demand.
This will not only reduce the harmful impact on climate, but will also earn the country frequent revenue and prestige through export.