This article is part of The Better India’s series #EarnYourIndependence through which we celebrate Indians achieving financial freedom in innovative ways.
Ranjita Saikia Deka, despite facing a huge crisis in her 15-year-old business, bravely put her feet forward in a unique way of pisciculture. She is one of the first from Assam to start land-based fish farming using Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology.
“Life has its own ups and downs, whatever the situation it’s necessary for us to accept it in a positive mindset because every challenge is an opportunity,” says Ranjita Saikia Deka during a conversation with The Better India.
From a very tender age, she wanted to do something innovative and out-of-the-box. In 2005, when the internet was at its nascent stage, she took up the mission of creating awareness on using the internet and other modern technologies and started taking free classes. Eventually, she opened an online service shop in the Dhemaji district. “Things went well till March 2020, but COVID and its subsequent lockdowns forced us to shut shop for more than a year which affected us financially,” she adds.
But Ranjita never wanted to stick to one source of income. So, in 2018, she started doing aquaponics. “One day while scrolling through YouTube, I saw a video on aquaponics and that’s where the idea came to my mind. I was fascinated by the technique of growing organic vegetables and fishes altogether in the same environment.”
Ranjita’s aquaponics business was a grand success, and witnessing this the Fishery Department approached her to set up this hi-tech project under India’s Blue Revolution Scheme in 2017-18.
The success of the project, in the last two years, has compelled many from various nooks and corners of Assam and outside have approached Ranjita to learnt about the technique. But only six to seven people have been able to successfully learn and implement this technique.
Neeti Deb, wife of former Chief Minister of Tripura Biplab Deb has also visited Ranjita’s farm and showed her keenness to start the project in her native state.
“To be honest, I never imagined my trial and error methods of aquaponics would be so popular. The success boosted my confidence to do something big in the fisheries sector and accordingly, I tried my hands at RAS technology,” she reveals.
First introduced in Isreal Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) is a hi-tech land-based fish farming which primarily aims to increase fish production with the optimum use of land. It also greatly helped in water conservation.
In India, it was included in the year 2015-16 under the Blue Revolution scheme.
These tanks cost anywhere from Rs 50,000 to Rs 50 lakh. And the benefits of RAS technology include less space, fewer labourers, and more production, among others.
A healthy way of fish production
The red-letter day of Ranjita’s life was 5 September 2020, the moment when she officially started fish farming with RAS.
“The fully organic fish produced through RAS technology is also quite cost-effective because it requires less space and labour,” she informs, adding, “It also greatly helps in water conservation, suppose in a 100-litre pond one can produce 1kg of fish however in this process 1kg of fish can easily be produced in a 10-litre tank.”
Though the system requires more electricity, Ranjita and her husband Putul Deka are continuously modifying ways to minimise consumption. The duo has also applied for solar power in this regard.
Presently in 8 tanks of 8-metre length and 5 feet depth which can hold up to 6 lakhs litres volume water, Ranjita is producing quintals of Indian Major Carb (IMC) fishes such as Rohu, Catla Catfish (Magur) Fossil Cat (Singhi), Pangas Catfish (Kosh), Chinese Promophet (Roopchanda) and tasting success.
“Fishes of high medicinal value are receiving good responses from the customers. We mostly target a few fish markets in Jagiroad, Sonapur as well as Guwahati where the average per day sale is around 10 kg. We also have quite a handful of regular customers. Besides, sometimes we do home delivery in various parts of Guwahati as per the request,” she informs
“No doubt fish farming in RAS is a challenging task but nothing can be more satisfying than providing fresh, delicious and healthy fishes to the people in the age where almost everything has chemicals in it,” she states.
Ranjita dreams of setting up a live, completely organic fish market near Guwahati and patiently waiting for it to happen soon.
As this improvised technology requires less labour thus she has hired two employees who are helping her in the smooth run of the business.
A Great Mentor
Tilak Sonowal, one of Ranjita’s two employees working on the plant, says, “I am working with Ranjita baideo (Assamese for ma’am) for the last six years and I must say she has completely changed my life. Earlier, I was working in my village where the earnings were so low that I couldn’t even feed my little daughter but now after working under her, I am having regular earnings which is helping my whole family to lead a decent life.”
“Baideo has given a new dimension to my life. She is a mentor and guide, under her guidance, I am learning every nitty gritty of this improvised and modernised technique,” he adds.
A Helping Hand
Being the pioneer in the field, Ranjita’s is now considered a one-stop solution for fish farming. Her success story is encouraging many to try this new technology.
Anjan Bishaya has this to say about Ranjita, “She is a generous, friendly and helpful person who helped us learn about every nitty gritty regarding the project. She has provided me with all the required information which increased my interest in it.”
Bishaya further informs that the necessary construction of the project is on the verge of completion and the full-fledged business will start soon. “In the 6 tanks of 5.5 feet we are developing the project in the Kallongpar area near Guwahati.”
Mentioning it as a great initiative for the future, he adds, “Land is getting reduced with every passing day and in this scenario construction of ponds is just not possible. This method of fish production requires less space, time and labour, thus this sustainable method will be very beneficial for future generations.”
Rezakul Islam, another successful RAS entrepreneur, also asserts that Ranjita has extended her helping hand and provided technical support while setting up the farm.
In the eight tanks, Islam cultures 40 to 45 tonnes of fish which are yielding him good profits.
Slowly but steadily, the RAS business is spreading to nooks and corners of Assam and other Northeastern states.
“In the year 2021, the total turnover of the project was Rs 11.25 lakh and till June 2022 it has increased to Rs 14.8 lakh. I hope to touch it to Rs 20 lakh by the end of this year,” Ranjita signs off.
All picture credits to & written by Sayantani Deb; Edited by Yoshita Rao