ABM Shamsul Alam Badal has received the "Dr Ashraf Ali Khan Smriti Krishi Purashkar 2021" award for his outstanding contributions to quality tilapia fry production and expansion of tilapia cultivation.
The Bangladesh Agricultural University Research System (Baures) of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh presented the award to Badal.
Badal told The Business Standard how he left his job in order to start farming fishes, and despite posting losses for several years, went on trying different things until he began making profits. He now helps other farmers adopt the latest technologies and methods of fish farming.
After acquiring his Master's degree, Badal took up a job, but he had always been thinking of starting a business of his own. His job entailed moving around in the rural areas. That is when he came up with the idea of commercial fish farming in a rural area.
He became involved in this business when commercial fish farming started in Mymensingh in the 1990s. But the beginning was not pleasant at all. In 1994-95 he suffered losses when he hired a pond and farmed fish in Gauripur. Leaving that pond, he started fish farming by taking 16 ponds of the Bangladesh Rifles (now Border Guard Bangladesh) on rent.
But even there he could not reduce losses despite cultivating fish for four years. Then he stopped getting ponds on rent. In 2000, he bought a piece of land beside the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, where he dug his own pond and invested around Tk8-10 lakh in setting up a lobster hatchery.
But losses in the business did not seem to be leaving him. He had to count losses for another year.
Then he changed his mind. The following year, he set up a Thai koi fish hatchery. At the time people had to buy koi fish at very high prices and so Badal did not suffer any losses in his project.
Badal said, "In one year I recovered the losses I had suffered in my previous endeavours. However, despite seeing profits, I closed down the fish hatchery after three years. And from then on I started producing tilapia fry, as there were only two or three tilapia hatcheries at the time."
Badal has not had to look behind since. He now owns a fish hatchery sprawling across seven acres of land. He is still involved in tilapia fry production and commercial farming.
Since 2015, he has been farming fish in a modern way. And he has been doing more. He has been disseminating aquaculture technology among others through his organisation "Agro3." The organisation assists farmers by imparting regular training to them and giving them various kinds of advice.
Badal said he has received various forms of technical assistance at different times from the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) in Mymensingh, which was close by. The former Vice Chancellor of BAU, Dr Anwarul Islam, also helped him with much information and suggestions on modern fish farming.
ABM Shamsul Alam Badal is now the general secretary of the Bangladesh Tilapia Foundation.
Bangladesh has achieved self-sufficiency in fish through farmed fish. People are also able to eat fish at low prices, but the country is not yet able to export fish fry or fish.
Talking about the reasons behind this, Badal said, "We have been able to produce fish for ourselves, but we have not yet been able to produce export quality fish."
"There is still a lack of quality feed, biosecurity, and farmers' education. We could not go into mechanisation. As a result, our fish production cost is higher, while Vietnam and Thailand can do it at a much lower cost. Due to these reasons, we have not been able to go for export yet," said Badal.