BHUBANESWAR: The Aquaculture Field School at Sarakana in Khurda district is a school with a difference, not bound by walls nor having halls for learning sessions.
Here, the ponds and hatcheries serve as classrooms for youths and farmers who want to make a living out of fish breeding and seed production.
Giving them lessons is 69-year-old Batakrushna Sahoo, a progressive fish breeder of the district who has taken up the mission of creating entrepreneurs in the pisciculture sector.
In fact, the school set up on Sahoo’s 15-acre fish hatchery by ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (ICAR-CIFA) in 2009, is today considered the epicentre for fish farming in Khurda.
On average, Sahoo has been training around 7,000 fish farmers and youths in fish breeding, seed production, fresh water aquaculture and pond management every year since 2009.
A former head clerk in the Finance department, Sahoo’s stint with pisciculture started in the 80s when he saw his father take to fish farming in Sarakana, his native. Seeing potential in the field, he got interested and approached the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in 1986.
“As a beginning, I released 200 carp fingerlings in my ancestral pond with the help of Dr Radheyshyam, the then technical officer at ICAR-CIFA. A year later, I sold 1.4 tonnes of carp fish from the same stock and each fish weighed 600 to 800 grams,” recollected Sahoo.
And, there has been no looking back. Apart from fish breeding, he has also taken up commercial cultivation of fish seed and spawn.
Inspired by his work, many villagers of Sarakana approached him for learning the know-how of fish breeding and a year before his retirement in 2010, ICAR-CIFA decided to open an Aquaculture Field School in his hatchery.
“I wanted to promote production of fish seed locally. Usually, farmers used to procure fish seeds from hatcheries in West Bengal and Andhra and despite the money spent; they would not get quality seeds and suffered high mortality rate,” said the fish breeder who began training people for free after his retirement.
Today, he holds training programmes four times a year helping hundreds of budding entrepreneurs not only from Odisha but also neighbouring states.
“Every training session at our school is free. Our gates are open for anyone who wants to learn anything about aquaculture and fish breeding,” said Sahoo, who wants the youth to understand the importance of rural pisciculture.
“One does not have to go out to earn a living. If done rightly and with technical assistance, fish farming can be a profitable venture”, said Sahoo who was awarded the Padmashri Award this year.
Apart from training people, Sahoo produces spawn and fry of Indian carp like Rohu, Catla and Mrigal and many exotic and ornamental fish varieties at his 16 ponds inside the hatchery.
The annual production is around 10 crore spawn and 1,200 kg of fish fingerlings in a year which are provided to 386 farmers across eight districts of Odisha.
7,000 youths/fish farmers trained at Batakrushna’s hatchery annually
He offers technical know-how for carp breeding to farmers of other dists for free
He provides fish spawn, fry and fingerlings to fish farmers in 8 dists of the State at a price much less than the market rate