Good. You made it this far.
We have spent the last few years testing. We have tested 1. We have tested 2 and we have tested 3. If you name it, we have probably tested it.
Over the last three years we have researched, designed, refined and piloted intensive tilapia production. We have over the last 18 months run a pilot production system at our own, not inconsiderable, expense.
There seems to be much confusion about what a pilot fish plant does. It is NOT supposed to make money – it is supposed to be a real world technical verification of a design hypothesis. The better the design, the better the results from the pilot will reflect what the design says they should reflect.
In other words it is the final stage in the process before you commit to spending real money, in this case on a full sized business only to then discover that oops, you made an error.
A pilot should be cheap and reflect the real world project at scale – a mini version of the full and final production system in other words. At almost R2M we can’t consider it cheap, but relative to the scale of the investment, it is only 2 of phase 1, being between R60M and R100M, growing to around R600M with a funding peak of R850M.
In other words it is small potatoes in the scheme of building a fish farm business in other words, but the immense value in design verification and the deep data learnings that a pilot delivers make it worth it’s weight in gold.
This is nothing new. Any new large scale project development will follow similar principles – it is a pity that aquaculture seems to think that large scale project development WILL ALWAYS work without putting in the effort and a small (relatively) amount of cash at risk to PROVE the case.
In our example we’re very pleased to report that our design and pilot came up pretty much hand in hand together. We exceeded performance in some significant areas – from a design of 90kg/m^3 of fish we peaked at 115kg briefly. Our energy consumption was lower than anticipated which was nice.
Importantly however we hit and maintained all our water quality parameters within specification. We can prove growth curves and feed conversion ratios and from the 18 months from breaking ground to End Of Life for the pilot we have gained insights into the business case for intensive production of fish, in this case, tilapia.
The conclusions have been interesting if not particularly welcome ones. Obviously these are our own and part of our IP as they point some valuable insights into the future of tilapia production as a scale business within Southern Africa.
We define scale as around 6,000 tons of fish per annum – a substantial business in other words.