A solar-powered pump has helped a Homa Bay County farmer to continuously push water into two upstream ponds where he is rearing at least 1,000 tilapia fish.
Michael Olalo bought the SF1 solar pump from Futurepump in April 2015 to cut the fuel costs he was incurring while using a fossil fuel generator to push water from River Nyorori to his farm.
After seeing the efficiency of the solar powered pump for irrigation, he decided to delve into fish farming to make use of the free sun when the machine is not needed for irrigation.
His land is on the upper part of the river, therefore gravity cannot push water to the farm. Irrigation is done once, twice or thrice a week depending on the severity of the weather.
“I used to spend Sh300 twice or thrice a week in fueling the generator to pump water to irrigate my watermelons. When I could not afford the fuel, the crops remained water-stressed. I no longer worry about the money or the rain. I have water every time I want it because the sun is always available,” he said.
The two 10m by 20m ponds have 500 fish each, which he introduced in June, 2016.
After pumping the water into the first one, the overflow goes to the second pond before flowing back to the river by gravity.
The pump operates through the day with interruptions only occurring when he wants to direct the water to irrigate crops.
Silt does not get into the pond because he uses pipes that float in the river in combination with a coarse filter. This is good, as accumulation of silt reduces the depth of ponds, therefore, exposing fish to predators as well as harsh weather. Silt also reduces gaseous exchange due to clogging of fish gills.
A tilapia fish is sold at between Sh250 and Sh400, depending on the size.
“I hope to start selling the fish by the end of December and January 2017. From the 1,000 fish, I am expecting at least Sh300,000. It is good money for expanding farming as well as catering for other family needs,” said Olalo.
His watermelons, which he harvested in November, earned him Sh45,000. The crop only didn’t do well because hailstones fell during flowering.
“Comparing the one-time expense of buying the solar pump from Futurepump to the cost of buying fuels every time I needed water shows it’s a great investment. Besides, a generator cannot rush a fish pond!” he said.