When I was growing up in rural Nigeria in the ‘80s and ‘90s, agriculture was already a central part of my life. As a child, I gained farm experience working with my father, who was a veterinarian. My mother, a teacher, would send me off to school each day with the parting words, “Go out there and be the best amongst equals.” This is still the motto by which I try to live.
As an aquaculture student at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, I discovered a large gap in the fisheries industry: a scarcity of good fish seed in eastern and northern Nigeria. I began surveying fish farmers in the affected regions to learn more about the problem. The results revealed a business opportunity. I decided that I could help bridge a knowledge gap for the fish farmers and also supply them with quality fish seed. I began devising strategies for fish distribution.
By my third year at university, I acquired my own farm where I started fish seed multiplication with only two wooden vats to raise fish. Today, with support from the World Bank’s West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP), my company, Fish Shoal Nigeria, has a capacity of 5.2 million fingerlings per year.
The challenges of fish farming have been innumerable. In the early years, there was a lack of funding, facilities, and equipment. Few people wanted to listen to a young farmer. I didn’t have the right equipment to monitor environmental and water parameters or a fish disease diagnosis laboratory to help prevent against disease. There were no insurance policies to protect fingerling producers and no support structure from the government. I experienced massive fish mortality through parasite infestation, disease, and fire.
Fortunately, through my collaboration with the WAAPP, I was able to buy equipment and expand my business. The WAAPP became a springboard for me to achieve production capacity and produce quality fingerlings for fish farmers in Nigeria. The program also helped me devise a strategy to own my value chain in aquaculture, continuing to excel in fish production while also expanding into processing and packaging of different fish products.
For years, I have worked to build Fish Shoal Nigeria. The name “Fish Shoal” means a massive movement of fish. It’s a business name that is living its true meaning.
Fish Shoal Nigeria employs an inclusive buy-back strategy to engage thousands of Nigerian farmers. We produce and supply quality broodstock to downlink farmers, offer technical support to the farmers who raise the fish, and we buy back from the same farmers to process and package the fish for distribution. This strategy provides jobs and increases and improves food security in Nigeria. One of my primary goals is to put fish on the tables of more Africans as cheaply as possible.
I believe Africa is capable of feeding the world and that our continent is the next frontier of economic development. Eight years after founding Fish Shoal Nigeria, I’m using my knowledge and experience to help drive change in Africa and make aquaculture accessible to fellow Africans.