Because we had not heard from prof. Joaquim yet, we had accepted an invitation by Ofélia Campagotti, one of the farmers who was at the workshop, to visit her farm. However, prof. Joaquim managed to arrange two visits as well so we decided to split up: Dr Tahmina would go with prof. Joaquim and prof. Silma to visit the two farms, while I would go with two assistants and prof. Benitto to the farm. This was also easiest languagewise as I speak Portuguese fluently and prof. Joaquim could translate to English for dr. Tahmina.
Mss. Ofélia’s farm is located in Gaspar, a small town near Blumenau, the old German settlement. The farm has 7 ponds and in one of the ponds we will be installing a trial system. Soon there will be fiber-optic internet, making communications much easier. Together with her husband Paulo, she showed us how the farm functions. The farm produces both for food processing as well as for sports fishing. There are important differences in how the fish are harvested: fish destined for sports fishing are harvested in smaller quantities per net to avoid lesions and possible resulting infections. Fish destined for food processing do not need this same care. When a pond is emptied, it is left to dry for one month or longer and then the dried waste is scooped out. Only after the pond is cleaned, the pond is filled again and fish are being introduced.
Water comes from the river as well as a waterfall and after leaving the pond goes back in the river (there is no recycling). The aeration and feeding machines are designed by Mr Paulo and he sells them to other farmers as well. The only downside to his business is that he does not provide manuals so there is an opportunity here to help him with this (taking into account the learning challenges that prof. Silma talked about during the workshop).
The ponds have a protective cover at the sides to protect against erosion due to the fish movements.
Ms Ofélia is head of the cooperative of fish farmers in Gaspar and the cooperation helps farer in sustaining their business through using common resources and being able to leverage pricesetting against the buyers.
The visits to the other farms were in cooperation with EPAGRI and subsequently the team was joined by mr Silvano. The Henning farm is located in the Luiz Alves area. This farm is a family run business for four generations. Their grandfather migrated from Germany. The farm has many ponds, three of which had Tilapia being reared in them. They use some technology to automate the feeding routine. However, how often they need to run the machines is more by their own experience. One small pond has fishes where the farmer feeds the fishes himself. When he feeds the fishes, he can sense that they are happy and healthy. He says this doesn’t take much of his time. He has Eucalyptus Forest that he planted 24 years ago in addition he has palm tree plantation and corn plantation. To measure fish growth he takes them out to measure them there is no other monitoring in place. One of their lakes will be used as a pilot site for Seneye equipment. The lake would have another fish jundiá (catfish) that is native and making a resurgence in Brazil. This is expected to give better returns to the farmer. The fish seed will be provided by EPAGRI and the sensor equipment and support through TAF project.
This is again a family run business, primarily run by three brothers. Our main contact was Elano’s younger brother. Their farm is much bigger with at least 6 ponds. They also rear Tilapia, but sometimes more than one species is mixed (up to three sometimes). In each farm there are roughly 10,000 fishes in the pond. The pond is 800,000 square meters, 8000 tilapia were harvested. This Pond will be one of the pilot site – the pilot will start in November.
They pump out the top water so that fishes can be harvested. After the fish is harvested, water is allowed to dry for some time. The remaining ‘end product’ is used as a manure for palm trees. There were black vultures in the lake which help in cleaning the lake. They have a large plantation of palm trees which are used for ‘palmito’ – a delicacy popular in Brazil. They also run a side business of arranging events for motorised quad bikers. A long track has been made between the ponds and the palm tree plantation. They are also starting a factory for making kashasa (cane sugar wine).
They also have automated system for both aeration and feeding of the fishes. But they use the automatic sequence only during winter. They are our second pilot site for installing Seneye equipment. Fish seed are again provided by EPAGRI and monitoring equipment and software through the project. At this farm, another colleague from EPAGRI joined, she is the lead for providing technical support to these farmers in the county. From translation, it was clear that she pledged her support for the project.