For 13 years, Edward Mathenge’s life has revolved around aquaculture. He started fish farming in 2005 with little knowledge about the field. However, along the way he has sharpened his skills to a level where he is able to train other fish farmers.
He has also been capitalising on the timely acquisition of modern fish farming skills, and trends to sustain and expand his business.
His commitment to fish farming in Nyeri attracted the attention of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, who offered to help him grow his business.
“I was aware fish was rarely eaten at the family level in Nyeri and that it was equally not a common menu in hotels. But I also knew that a good number of people enjoyed the delicacy,” says Mr Mathenge.
“Sometimes people fail to consume a product not because they don’t like it, but because it’s not available within their locality.”
Mr Mathenge was among exhibitors at Nyahururu Stadium during the recent Laikipia Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair, organised by the Laikipia County Government to promote local talent and industrialisation.
After seeing his potential, Nyeri County enrolled him in fish farming short courses, which have equipped him with important skills.
The county later introduced him to farmers groups, non-governmental organisations, and government aquaculture departments. That is how he got an opportunity to traing farmers in Nyandarua and Laikipia counties through county governments and NGOs.
To acquire the latest technology, Mr Mathenge maintains a close link with university lecturers who involve him in research work or help him keep pace with emerging innovations and trends.
He says fishing is a profitable venture, although it comes with challenges as fish need to be handle with care. He advises farmers to empty the water in aquarium every three months and get proper advice on feeding their stock.
The entrepreneur made his first aquarium in 2010 which was meant to beautify his house, but a a buyer booked it before it was complete. He sold it for Sh14,000 and started making the second one which went for Sh22,000.
“I realised it was a good business venture and decided to open a workshop in Nyahururu town. I trained and employed three people,” says Mr Mathenge.
“The Nyeri county government is interested in innovations and I have benefited from exposure opportunities it has provided."
His main customers are public and private offices, homes, and schools which use the aquariums to teach the students about fish farming. He says there are many species of ornamental fish but goldfish, fantail, koi, yellow comet, and shubkin are the most common in Kenya.
The cost of an aquarium vary from Sh14,000 to Sh150,000.
The cost of an aquarium, Mr Mathenge says, depends on the size, design and the type of ornamental fish to be stored.
From the business, he is comfortably educating his four children and others from his extended family.
He has also purchased a plot in Nyahururu town which he is developing, where he wants to shift and expand his business by January next year.
“My plan is to train and employ a minimum of 20 employees, the décor cages are on high demand, it’s a good business, I can’t complain,” says Mr Mathenge.