By CAROLINE WAMBUI
Fish Carnivore’s chief chef, Wilberforce Ochieng’, displays fish products that he prepares in the Meru-based establishment. Joseph Mutwiri (inset) who owns the establishment with a partner, says they came up with the idea to promote fish eating culture and aquaculture, which was gaining traction in the region, but many farmers like him lacked market. PHOTOS | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NMG
Some 100m from the famous Makutano Junction in Meru, along the Meru-Nanyuki highway, there is the Terah Business Centre.
The centre is home to a micro-processing factory named Fish Carnivore, which has turned out to be a ready market for fish farmers in Meru and its environs as aquaculture grows in the region.
The Sh6 million facility processes fish from the dozens of farmers in the region into various products that include fish sausages, samosas, kebabs, and burgers, among other delicacies.
Joseph Mutwiri, who owns the outlet with a partner, says they came up with the idea to promote fish eating culture and promote aquaculture, which was gaining traction in the region, but many farmers like him lacked market.
“We were losing fish, some farmers had even abandoned the agribusiness due to lack of market. The Sh60 million fish factory at Kanyekine, which was the reason many had started fish farming, was not in use,” says Mutwiri.
The farmer was introduced into fish farming soon after retiring in 2007 through the economic stimulus.
“I started with two ponds measuring 22 by 16 metres and added two more and stocked them as market was guaranteed at the market but after the fish matured, there was no place to sell because the factory had collapsed. I had to devise ways to sell fish,” he recounts.
He started selling fish on weekends at a spot in the town as he also directed customers where to get him during the week days.
He later constructed a small processing room measuring 10 by 10 feet at the gate of the farm to sell the produce.
After attending several seminars in and out of the country that did not bear fruits in terms of marketing, the two proprietors sat to discuss how they could sell fish in a region that had not embraced a fish eating culture.
DIVERSE FISH PRODUCTS
However, there was challenge of how to finance the project as an NGO that had promised to fund them had a different idea that involved having consultants direct farmers to financial institutions.
The factory has now contracted over 50 farmers guaranteeing them a steady tilapia and catfish market.
Once the fish is collected from the farm, it is put in the coolers for preservation and safe transportation. At the factory, gutting and scale removing is done.
For the big fish especially the catfish, filleting is done, then the meat is minced. After mincing it, they add eggs and bread crumbs then deep fried to make the fish fingers.
They buy fish of more than 400g for tilapia and catfish that weighed 2kg.
They also offer consultancy services that include helping farmers to select site for farming, assist in pond construction, pond fertilisation, pond stocking and follow up to ensure good maturity.
They process 50-100kg of fish a day.
Mutwiri says fish eating has grown in Meru and neighbouring towns, thanks to Meru University, Meru National polytechnic, Kemu University and other constituents colleges.
Rita Nairuti of Mwea Aquafish farm says processing has enabled consumers eat fish in another form as compared to what they are used to.
“It’s a way of broadening the market while also providing diverse fish products that would never have been there.”
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