Batakrushna Sahoo is a fish farmer who got conferred with Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, this year.
Based at Sarakana in Balianta Block in Khurda district, Sahoo is believed to be the pioneer in blending science into fish farming in his hatchery in his home district.
With years-long hard work and efforts he has not only scripted a story of success in fish farming, but he has also earned accolades and money.
Excerpts from his interview with Local Wire.
Local Wire: When did you start farming?
Sahoo: I started farming in 1986. Earlier I used to do farming on agricultural land. I used to cultivate my limited land for producing paddy, potato, pulses and other crops.
I had 15 acres of cultivable land. From farming then I used to earn around Rs 12000 per year. I was also involved in shared cropping. I did not find it much profitable.
Local Wire: How the idea of getting into fish farming came to your mind?
Sahoo: We used to buy fish from the persons owning ponds in our area. We saw that the majority of the fish used to be sold in the market and the local people were deprived of the fish. I did not like that.
Later I took the pond through auctions for three years.
Earlier I was not much informed about using fish farming as a mean for business and sustaining our livelihood.
Local Wire: How did you expand your fish farming and magnified profits?
Sahoo: I held discussions with the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Khurda and the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA) based in Bhubaneswar.
I told them that I had invested Rs 12000 for getting the pond via auction for three years.
Scientists assured me that if I rope in technologies demonstrated by them I can get back the money even before one year.
Local Wire: What technologies you tried to rope in?
Sahoo: I used big fishing nets and tried to eliminate the predatory fish.
I barricaded the pond and used other techniques. In the first year itself not only I got the auction amount back but also added profits more than the auction amount.
Earlier we were deprived of good transport and oxygen cylinders due to which many fish used to die before being sold leading to losses.
Local Wire: Did you try some artificial methods too to give an impetus to fish production?
Sahoo: I learnt giving injections into the glands of fish to stimulate egg production. I tried stimulated breeding in the hatcheries.
I started dealing with spawns and fingerlings soon. I put 4 lakh fish egg into a pond and soon got Rs 7000 profit.
Such initial success after combining with some technologies bolstered our confidence. I slowly started buying barren land and converting them into ponds to start fish farming.
In 1994 I expanded the number of ponds to eight.
During 1998 I started with a circular hatchery. Ponds were prone to losses due to natural disasters.
Now with the use of hatchery and aquaculture, I am able to earn around Rs 12 lakh annually.
Local Wire: Do you find fish farming more profitable than conventional agriculture?
Sahoo: Yes. Fish farming is comparatively less prone to losses compared to conventional farming. It also gives more profit.
We just need to include scientific methods into it.
I started this first in this area and now after seeing my work, many farmers have shifted towards fish farming.
I am also extending help by training many other farmers on the latest available technologies in fish farming.
Local Wire: How you look at the Padmashri award?
Sahoo: It is a great encouragement for farmers like us, living in a small village in Odisha.
This is the first time any farmer from this area selected for a Padma award.
The whole area is happy now.
Many people and organisations are now calling me to facilitate me. I am overwhelmed by the decision. Now it seems my life was worth living.
It has given me a great sense of satisfaction and instilled into me great confidence.