By Devin Jayasundera
Oceanpick, Sri Lanka’s only off-shore aquaculture company launched ‘Round Island,’ its unique oceanic fish farming brand to mark its fully-fledged commercial entry to the local and international markets. The company is Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s first to implement commercial scale oceanic farming of finfish.
Oceanpick Founder/Director Irfan Thassim launched the company in 2012 with an initial investment of $ 4 million. The company which specialises in barramundi juveniles has been supplying to leading restaurants and hotels in Colombo. The newly unveiled Round Island brand will be introduced first time to the mass market and is expected to reach major retail chains in the next two months.
“Oceanpick’s fish are harvested on demand. The fish would be ready to be served in any hotel or restaurant within 48-72 hours after it is being taken out from the sea in Trincomalee,” claimed Thassim. “This would also eliminate the need for refrigeration which diminishes the quality of the product and will ensure the world class quality that we promise,” he added.
Oceanpick’s partnership with Kames Fish Farming of Scotland strictly ensures that it self-regulates itself and serves as a benchmark in the industry. A representative of Kames Fish Farming of Scotland pointed out: “Scotland has the strictest environment laws controlling fish farming than any country in the world. We really are tightly controlled and what we have done in terms of helping Oceanpick is to guarantee that the same standards are applied to ensure the highest quality and the sustainability of its environment.”
The BOI-approved company is pioneering Sri Lanka’s efforts in aquaculture using off-shore farming, where the farms are established in the ocean. Off-shore farming also known as oceanic farming is an emerging aquaculture method that has the advantage of higher scalability and better water circulation than inshore farms, which enables the fish to have a superior survival rate and faster growth.
The company intends to double its capacity to 1,000MT during this year and to widen its portfolio to several other species in the future.
Sri Lanka’s aquaculture contributed only a meagre 2% of the total fish production in 2015, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. This figure is dwarfed when compared to the global aquaculture production which contributes to almost 50% of the total fish produce in the world. The Food and Agricultural organisation projects the global aquaculture production to increase up to 62% in 2030.
Speaking at the event, Public Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim hailed Oceanpick’s venture in to the aquaculture industry as a much needed step in the country’s economic development program. “This is a pioneer status business. In another country a person who would have achieved this status would be supported fully by the government. They would be strengthened and supported by providing incentives such as free land and other benefits.”
With regard to the dismal status of Sri Lanka’s aquaculture, the Minister proclaimed that the local fishing industry was still in the Stone Age. “There’s plenty of fish to be farmed in the surrounding seas, it is imperative that we develop this venture to ensure the sustainability of the fishing industry in the country.”
To avoid Sri Lanka’s further regression from rapid industrialisation the Minister stressed on the much-needed “technological leap” the country has to make. “Now as we are a middle income country, we cannot rest on our laurels and depend on manufacturing garments till the next decade. We need to transform our industries and businesses by importing technology and learning the technical know-how.”
Minster of Primary industries Daya Gamage who was also present at the event emphasised the importance of creating value addition in both agriculture and the fisheries industry. He pointed out that one reason that foreign investors are not attracted to these industries is because the national output is too low for a healthy return on investment. He further exemplified this by highlighting the yield of fish caught from the majority of the small boats in Sri Lanka is far lower when compared to the high tech shipping equipment of other countries.
The Minister also proclaimed that the Ministry of Primary Industries has set a target to increase the amount of fish exports to $ 2.5 billion by 2020.
Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera