site.btaHi-Tech Fish Farming in Bulgaria: a Farmer's Story

Hi-Tech Fish Farming in Bulgaria: a Farmer's Story
Hi-Tech Fish Farming in Bulgaria: a Farmer's Story
Stoyan Ivanov in his catfish farm, Pazardzhik, southern Bulgaria, June 21, 2024 (BTA Photo/Ivona Velichkova)

Stoyan Ivanov considers fish breeding to be the toughest livestock farming sector and has been looking for the right way to approach to it for 18 years now. The result of this pursuit is that his company, Aquafish Pazardzhik, now has two full-cycle farms in the Pazardzhik area.

He argues that without EU fundsing hi-tech production in agriculture can hardly be possible. "We are very backward in certain industries. In some places in Bulgaria, fish are still farmed the same way they were in the 1960s: with high water consumption and on a lareg area," Ivanov said.

His business started in 2006 with sturgeon farming in a pond farm, where he produced caviar and exported it, mostly in Europe. Ivanov said, however, that his output now is insignificant. After the COVID crisis and the start of the war in Ukraine, the market has contracted considerably. He, however, points out with satisfaction that Bulgaria has gradually become one of the sought-after producers of caviar.

"In recent years, sturgeon have been bred not only in cage-based farms as in Bulgaria. In Western Europe, they have made many recirculation systems with the help of EU funding," Ivanov explained.

When he went to Norway in 2009 to visit one of the major European aquaculture exhibitions, he saw how salmon was being industrially produced there. "I understood that we were not going to go far with our sturgeon production capacities, so I started educating myself on the topic of recirculation systems," Ivanov recalls.

That is how his second fish farm with recirculating systems came to be. They raise African catfish there. Ivanov says this is one of the most difficult ways to breed fish because it is basically a huge aquarium where everything - temperature, oxygen level - has to be controlled. An artificial environment is created, which is totaly different from a pond farm that relies on the large water volume with no need for oxygenation or waste handling.

Ivanov explains that a recirculation system has high energy costs and when energy prices in Europe skyrocketed, producing fish became very expensive.

At Aquafish Pazardzhik they strive for energy efficiency and use a lot of renewable sources. As the manager pointed out, they have a variety of heating options, but they are looking for the most efficient one.

"We have almost zero-waste production. We are no burden on nature. We artificially breed the fish, fatten them and we use top-quality feed, most of which we purchase abroad," Ivanov said, adding that their goal is a closed production cycle - from the hatching of the fish to the final products that go to the market.

The catfish farm has a hatchery, facilities for fattening, for processing, for storage of fish products and for feed production.

Ivanov says that his farm would not have existed without the EU-based Maritime and Fisheries Programme. "I would have had a hard time building what I have now, had it only been my own money. Most of the things you see have been built with the help of EU funds," he said.

Aquafish Pazardzhik is a beneficiary of the Maritime and Fisheries Programme 2014-2020, with 11 projects approved and implemented for over BGN 3 million. Of these, 7 project have been funded through the Community-led Local Development Initiative of the Local Initiative Fisheries Group in Pazardzhik.

Ivanov says that his production consumes a lot of energy and expensive feed, and technological problems crop up all the time, but at the same time he has a large production on a small area.

The catfish farm has a design capacity for 120-140 t of fish a year, but the owner is trying to increase it through improvements and investments. "It's all about finding the right technology," Ivanov said.

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By 12:43 on 20.07.2024 Today`s news

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