With a first degree in Mathematics from Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State and a Master’s degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Lagos, one would think that Folusho Olukinni is destined for a career in the financial. Yet, while he was trying to joggle numbers and calculate risk, Folusho had his eyes on an unrelated sector – fish farming.
Recalling how it all started, Folusho said, “I started this business even before I finished school, so after school, I just decided to face it and focus on it. My brother and I initially set up the farm in 2011; I can say that I have been into this line of business for about six to seven years. At first, my brother was running it so I was only helping out but I took interest as time went on and after university, I went fully into it.”
What Folusho and his brother started in 2011, mid-way into his studies at the university, has become Olukinni Farms, an integrated fish farming farm involved in hatchery, rearing and feed production.
Interestingly, Folusho’s initial idea of himself as a fish farmer was to source and sell fingerlings to other fish farmers.
He said, “When I first started, I didn’t do everything at once. I used to buy fingerlings to sell to other local farmers, but I soon realized that if I wanted to make more profit, I had to go into other aspects of the business.”
That was the first of many lessons he learnt in the trade.
Another lesson Folusho learnt was that in fish farming one has to improvise and work smart. For instance, when the cost of purchasing the starter feed for his fish rose from N3,000 to N9,000 within three years, he knew profits were going to be affected if he didn’t invent.
“While other farms may buy fingerlings, we hatch our own. That cuts costs for us. We produce our own feeds and ‘smoke’ our fish. Other farmers don’t do it, but we do it all.”
“In the beginning when we started," Folusho said, "we felt we had no choice but to just manage. But later we had to improvise by looking for other sources of ingredients for our feeds. For example, you can see now that we are planting our own corn. What we do is to harvest when ready and process our own feeds. It has helped us to cut cost to the barest minimum without compromising quality.”
Processing his own feed has helped perfect Folusho’s quality control skill.
In what seemed like a half smile, he said, “I remember a time I used an expired fish meal unknowingly because I was under pressure to make the purchase. And then I just discovered that the fish were not growing as fast as they should. It was then I realized that I used expired feeds. That was a really low moment, which strengthened my resolve to source feeds locally.”
After investing over N6milion naira since inception, there are things Folusho would love to see improve in fish farming.
He said, “There is still is the problem of electricity, because this business runs mainly on power as we need to constantly change the water almost every day. We need to pump water with the pumping machine and that requires electricity. There is also the problem of labour; it is not easy to get good hands willing to work as fishpond attendants. They feel it’s a dirty job.”
To avoid expending too much cost on power, Folusho told us that he has learnt to stretch himself and his staff whenever there is public power supply.
“Whenever electricity comes,” he said, “we have to quickly change over. We don’t joke with that. Somebody is constantly on the lookout for whenever they bring light, even if it is 2am, and we make the most of it.”
Although he has not recouped his investment yet, his annual turnover is about N1.6million and he believes that in the business of fish farming, the more you invest the higher your profit.
He said, “If we can get more funds to expand, there is a huge market for fish in Nigeria. However, we spend too much on feeds and power, and then we put back the little profits into the business. But the business is more profitable when done on a large scale.”
Folusho’s entire capital has come from his savings and from family and friends. And he thinks that this approach has aided growth.
He enthused, “The unique thing about our business is that we try to cut cost from beginning to the end. For example, while other farms may buy fingerlings, we hatch our own. That cuts costs for us. We produce our own feeds and ‘smoke’ our fish. Other farmers don’t do it, but we do it all.”
The CEO of Olukinni Farms told us how lucrative the business could be.
Folusho said, “Often, clients come quarterly because the fish can be harvested in about four to five months, depending on the size you want to achieve. A standard table size, for instance, can be harvested in six months. Clients come every three to five months. The truth is that because of the huge demand for fish, even one single client can buy up everything you produce.”