Upasana Gohain –In Conversation With Entrepreneur And New Age Farmer, Uddipta Hazarika
Pisciculture or fish farming is a very well known farming, which is a process of breeding, raising and transportation of fishes for domestic and commercial purposes. When it comes to healthy and nutritional food option, fish is considered to be one of the topmost food items as they are a rich source of proteins and other minerals.
In the present time, with the development of high technology, we have seen a lot of young farmers and entrepreneurs who have been choosing farming as their occupation, among which pisciculture is a popular sector.
If we narrow down our discussion to Assam, we will get enough farmers who have been earning their daily income from fish farming. However, researched, developed and technological fish farming or pisciculture is where the state is still lagging behind.
To know more about fish farming, the process, important aspects of it, Pratidin Time Digital had a conversation with Mr. Uddipta Hazarika of Gohpur, Assam who started his own fish farm in wetlands and is also the first in North East to set up Biofloc Fish Farming in the region.
But before we discuss our conversation with Mr. Uddipta Hazarika, let’s have a brief understanding on what Biofloc Fish Farming is.
Biofloc fish farming is known to be one of the best available methods in the present day which is helping fish farmers to attain a wide range of objectives like high output, low cost, sustainable growth, better income opportunities, less area, less maintenance cost etc.
The Biofloc Fish Farming has become popular all over the world in the recent times. Parts of India too have been working on this way of fish farming. As Mr. Uddipta Hazarika is the first to introduce and experiment with Biofloc Fish Farming, we interviewed him on the mentioned topic.
Q. Mr Uddipta how did you come up with this idea of Technological Fish Farm in Assam?
Uddipta Hazarika: The whole technology of Biofloc Fish Farming is basically a technology from Israel. So me and few of my friends from Chattisgarh and Punjab, we formed a lobby and we discussed that this technology can actually help the land leashed fish farmers in Northeast. Now, to dig a fishery we cannot use any land we want. There is actually this rule that where fisheries are dug in large numbers, good and fertile land cannot be used. So, does it mean that the land leashed farmers will not be able to do fish farming at all? We researched on this particular issue and found out about two technologies in this world, one is the RAS, Re-circulating Aquaculture System and the other is Biofloc Culture. But we cannot go for the Re-circulating Aquaculture System because it’s an extremely expensive technology which is very problematic for small farmers. But Biofloc is a kind of technology where a farmer in parameter of 10,000 litres of water if is able to scientifically maintain bacteria, then that farmer can produce atleast 7 to 8 quintals of fish in a year. So, I went forward with this concept and in the first year, I was quite successful in it. Well, obviously I couldn’t have achieved 100% success in my first attempt so I aimed for 50% success in my first year where I succeeded.
Q. We have come to know that you are now working on fish farming in wetlands, which is a very new concept. Tell us more about it.
Uddipta Hazarika: Slowly, when I got into the Fish Farming sector, I came to know that “seed sovereignty” is a very big concept in the world in present time.Fish seed, which is locally called “Poona” in Assam, we do not have the control over it. For a fish farmer, it is very important to have the supply of “poona” 24 hours for its success. Here, the fish seed supply comes from Lower Assam places like Barpeta and Nalbari’s Rangia, so if these areas do not supply the fish seeds to Upper Assam on time, the hatching units of upper Assam cannot supply the seeds further to the farmers of the area, which means we also need to work on the fish seed. My concept is, where can we do fish production in a large scale. That’s what led me to the concept of Fish farming in wetlands. I used an area beside Brahmaputra river in my own village in wetlands called Bakori Dalani, Kawaimari and Dathkala which is a flood prone area and people around that area faces a lot of problems during flood as water increases to a height which is not safe for people during the monsoons. So with further research I proceeded with my idea to work on these wetlands.
Q. As you have said that the area is extremely flood prone, so is it possible to continue fish farming in the long run?
Uddipta Hazarika: Definitely, our biggest challenge here is the flood as we are doing this in a flood prone area. So before digging the fisheries in these wetlands, we collected data by doing survey among the people living in the area. We also collected the data of previous year water level markings on trees. So determining the maximum level of water in flood we fixed a parameter, we aimed to dig in such depth that would not prove to failure even during flood situation in Assam. So by God’s grace, presently everything is going fine and we have the capacity to hold more 4 to 5 foot water level currently. However, if the water level ever exceeds more than that, then there will be a problem.
Q. Mr. Hazarika, what are the other important aspects that we have to keep in mind while we work in Fish production?
Uddipta Hazarika: See, in Fish farming the biggest challenge is not about digging the fishery or the pond. Soil management is also something that comes into the picture. Even if someone gives you 50 bighas of land for digging fisheries, still you’ll not be able to dig 50 bighas of water area, you’ll be able to only get 25 to 30 bighas of water area there and the other portion of land will be used in making of the dykes. In flood prone areas, the management of soil gets low and farmers have to go for house fishing and in areas which are plain, there is too much of land for you to dig up. So, a farmer will have to design these from his or her own architectural mind, determining the directions and distance.
Q. Along with Fish Farming, is there any other agricultural production you are working on?
Uddipta Hazarika: Currently the Assam Agricultural University has joint us in this venture. The professors of the University have given a very good response on this and are also indirectly helping us. We are also producing “Bau Dhan”, the black rice. There is a species of this “Bau Dhan” called the “Tuloxi Bau” which is especially developed for the flood prone areas and they grow maximum upto 15 feet tall. So we are now also growing “Tuloxi Bau” in our farm. They have already become 9 feet tall, although the crops are under water now for the flood, they will grow taller and much healthier if the water flows out from the fields in the coming two three days. We are growing this rice species consulting with the professors of the Assam Agricultural University. Parallel to this, for the value addition we are also growing around 600 to 700 seedless lemon trees. Also, as the place where my farm is located is a wetland area, I have seen that the local ducks here grows up very healthy. So, thing about this we have also ordered an incubator and we will firstly collect the local eggs of these ducks from the villages nearby which we will incubate and help the baby ducks to grow. Since the scenery also becomes extremely beautiful because of the water and crops, the yellow mustards growing all over also adds to the beauty, we are also bringing a concept of eco-tourism alongside. So, we are basically doing whatever we can to give the value addition into it.
Q. Mr Hazarika, most people in our state also believes that new- age farming or agriculture is something which cannot be done unless you have a qualification background in the area. How far do you think is it true?
Uddipta Hazarika: That is a totally wrong concept. I myself was not related to agriculture until the day I started working on it. I was associated with academics in the past. I also worked in the Nanda Talukdar Foundation where I worked on various aspects, be it history or anything else. I also travelled across Assam and developed a software called “Gram India” with my partner through which we got exposed to various aspects of the Assamese society. We came to know how young entrepreneurs are working silently in their projects, came across many talented young men and that is when the thought to work on a self-independent rural development project strike in my mind. Because of that concept only, I found opportunities on my way. People come across many opportunities in life. It depends on how they grab those opportunities.
Q. Mr. Hazarika, over the years we have seen that in India, the agricultural scenario is yet to reach that level, where we see other countries doing extremely well although India is an agriculture based country itself. Do you think this is because our people are not enthusiastic enough and too lazy to learn about the New-age farming?
Uddipta Hazarika: This is a very good question. Why are our people lazy to learn about the new age farming or the organic farming? Why is the need so less here? If I talk about Assam alone, 80% people here are already eating organic food since years. Here, almost all the residents have atleast 1 bigha of land where they grow crops. People in our villages have cattle in their homes and they get fertilizers from cattle and likewise people here get enough production for their family to eat. Because, we are having enough, the thought of technological farming does not come to our minds. It’s only the Muslim people of Char Chapori areas of Assam who have become commercially ahead in the agricultural sector. Some farmers in some areas are doing so well that we get to know about the production just by the name of the places. Technological organic farming is a new concept for the people of Assam because since ages people have been consuming healthy food here. That is why the people do not know how to commercialize the whole concept of organic farming in a larger picture. However, people are now learning about it slowly. And to develop an organic farming market, we will still need atleast 10 years. So when the thought process of the people will start to change with time, the market will also change.
Q. Mr. Hazarika, young generation is Assam is very much in a race to get a government job even if they are graduated in Agriculture Studies. How do you think will these young people get motivated to go for independent farming or agriculture?
Uddipta Hazarika: You see, motivation part comes much later. Firstly we will have to create that environment in our education system. For example, in case of Doctors we make it compulsory for them to get posted in rural areas first for a year after they graduate. So, we will also have to do the same in the Agriculture sector. Those who have graduated from Agriculture studies, we will have to make them work with farmers who are working on community based agriculture. When, they will start to relate with these farmers, they will get the vision to work. We will have to travel around and see, we will have to learn about all the new farming concepts. Nowadays, soilless farming is also possible, so when we will get exposed to the world around us and when we will learn these new things, we will be able to work in this area widely. I want that our agriculture graduate students must at least visit agriculture rich states in India even if it is for internship so that they learn more in this area.
Q. Mr. Hazarika, do you plan to give training or arrange workshops for the young enthusiastic students who are interested to know more about farming through this project of yours?
Uddipta Hazarika: Definitely. In the long run, we will definitely do that. We will focus mostly in the practical learning, where they will also have to work as labourers in the farm just like we are doing right now. You cannot come to work just with the academic background but also you need to have the willpower to work as a farmer and entrepreneur. So, definitely we will open it up for the young students. But we still have time for it to happen. I need time to work on this farm so that we get to that point in the future. Here, I also want to add something more, I think Media also plays a big role in the success and failure in the life of an entrepreneur. Talking from my experience, I think farming is an area that needs time and attention. Once a farm or once the work of a farmer gets live telecasted in the channels and the farmer also gets excited and exposes his work to the media, disturbance starts taking place around that farming entrepreneurs. Especially, fish farming is something which might go wrong if that place where it is done gets exposed to lots of people. So, the entrepreneurs should atleast take some time to work on their project silently where they can give the much needed attention peacefully. Only after the farmer is himself convinced that he is now in a state where he can bring in people, help them as much as he can through his farm, shall go forward and allow exposure. Moreover, media as a responsible body should point out the problems and challenges that a farmer is facing and start an advocacy between the government and the farmer so that the farming is developed in our country and in Assam and also the farmers get benefitted.
Mr. Uddipta Hazarika and his team, with his repetitive mention of Mr. Udayaditya Goswami has indeed been doing something great that can open the scope of new-age farming in Assam and encourage more and more people of this generation to opt for farming in a commercial and broader aspect. Through this exclusive interview, we have come to know a lot more about farming especially pisciculture.
Pratidin Time Digital thanks Mr. Uddipta Hazarika for informing our readers with all the necessary aspects of Pisciculture, New-age farming or Technological farming.