Integrated Fish Farming – Adding value to the traditional subsistence based farming system

Integration of various components on the farm not only results in better resource management but also leads to increased farm production, income and productive employment. Integrated Fish Farming (IFF) is one such model which adds value to the traditional subsistence based farming system. Besides providing substantial monetary gains, the model also provides food and nutritional security to the farm household.

Uttarakhand, a predominantly mountainous state is characterized by isolated villages, undulating terrains, small and fragmented land holdings, and rain fed farming. Lack of irrigation facilities coupled with harsh climatic conditions have led farmers to focus on traditional, subsistence based cereal and millet farming systems. Lack of alternative livelihood systems, pushes them to follow subsistence based farming systems or migrate to urban areas in search of employment.

Most of the small landholdings are managed by women. Agriculture production fulfills the food requirements of the people for less than six months. Since the scope for horizontal expansion in farming is limited, vertical integration is needed to enhance farm productivity, employment, while providing steady incomes. This could be achieved by systematically integrating farming systems in right sequences. For instance, integration of different farm components like livestock, fish, poultry, vegetables etc., enables sustainable production of different commodities with low investments, while reducing negative impact on environment.

The case of a farmer

Ms. Shanti Devi is an owner of a small farm in Basoli village of Almora district in Uttarakhand. She owns around 1.2 ha agricultural land spread over 2.0 km in the mountainous region. Of the total land, around 0.4 ha is under cultivation. Shanti Devi has been engaged in agricultural and allied activities, dominated by traditional subsistence cereal-millet farming. During Kharif season, with rainfall of around 600 to 700 mm, has been growing finger millet, barnyard millet, horse gram, soybean and vegetables like cucurbits, french bean, okra, tomato etc., and during rabi season, with unpredictable rainfall, wheat and few leafy vegetables.

Shanti Devi took part in training in 2004, organized in the village under Women Scientist Scheme of DST (WOS-B). The training was based on Integrated Fish Farming (IFF) principles. Following the training, she received guidance for managing the system.

The model of Integrated Fish Farming

The model comprised of the following components – three water tanks (water storage tank of 1.78 m3 capacity, filtration tank of 1.47 m3 capacity, filtered water tank of 9.8 m3capacity), fish pond of 100 m2, a small poultry unit located besides the pond and beds for cultivation of vegetables.

Into the fish pond, during March 2004, a combination of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthysmolitrix), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodonidellus), and common carp (Cyprinuscarpio) in the ratio of 45:35:20 at a stocking density of 3000 fingerlings /ha with average size of 5-10 cm, were released. These species have complementary feeding habits, occupy different ecological niches, attain marketable size at more or less the same time and are resistant to diseases. The fish received a feed comprising rice bran and ground nut cake (1:1), at the rate of 2% of body weight at initial stages of growth. Subsequently, after two months of stocking, no artificial feed was given. The feed sources were cow dung, droppings of poultry and grass. After rearing for 8-9 months, the fish were harvested.

Besides the pond, 30 hybrid birds of dual purpose were reared in low cost small poultry house. Supplementary diet was provided at initial stages of growth. The chick’s growth was monitored at regular intervals. The hens were sold after the egg-laying cycle was completed. The excreta from poultry unit was used as a supplementary feed for the fish in the fish pond.

Beds for vegetable cultivation (600 m2) were prepared adjacent to small ponds so that water could be drawn for irrigation. Improved varieties of different vegetables were grown round the year, utilizing pond overflows for irrigation and sediments as manure.

Regular efforts were made by the farmer to improve the system. The farmer has succeeded in enhancing production per unit area through improved cultural practices, using higher stocking densities of exotic carp species; proper maintenance of poultry birds; and, by growing high yielding varieties of vegetables. The farmer has been maintaining pond fertility at optimum level, with poultry droppings and livestock excreta, which promoted growth of planktons used by fish as feed which further enhanced fish yields.

Fish yields of around 5.5-6.0 t/ha/yr is being realized by the farmer under intensive management. The pond created for composite carp culture has facilitated irrigation to grow different vegetables round the year. The farmer has been growing high yielding varieties of 8-10 different vegetables by harnessing over flow of pond water for irrigation with year round cultivation of vegetables (French beans, capsicum, pea, tomato, and radish).

During 2006 and 2007, the entire unit with composite carp culture with poultry, yielded around 56-60 kg of fish, 55-65 kg chicken, and 2500-3000 eggs, per year. These three major components contributed 50- 60% of the total income (Rs 29,938) generated from the system. Over the period, the farmer family has been earning gross income of Rs30,000-35,000 annually from IFF adopting fish–poultry-vegetables. The non recurring expenditure has reduced in successive years, thus enhancing net income from the system. Net income of around Rs 30,000 was generated during 2016 from the system. Established in 2004, the IFF model at the farm of Shanti Devi is still running and fetching a substantial income to the beneficiary household.

The complementarity of various components makes the model self supporting, self sufficient and sustainable.

The IFF system helped in better resource management through integration of complementary components; led to increased farm production and incomes. The integrated system not only provided substantial monetary gains, but also food and nutritional security to the farmers’ family through regular supply of vegetables, eggs, chicken and fish. Besides home consumption, as the village being located near Binsar Wild Life Sanctuary, a tourist destination, marketing of fish, eggs, chicken and fresh vegetables, was possible. These commodities were sold at a premium price in local markets, and also to hotels and resorts in the vicinity of the wild life sanctuary. As the produce was fresh and free from chemicals, it fetched better price. The IFF model has proved its worth to generate employment for farmer household and added value in the traditional subsistence based farming. Also, as the production is within easy reach of consumers, harvesting of fish, poultry, and vegetables is adjusted to demand, thus minimizing distribution problems and spoilage.


IFF has offered increased efficiency of resource utilization, reduced risk by diversifying crops and livestock. Diversified produce from the farm has improved nutritional status of the household and has also generated income and employment opportunities throughout the year. The resource and residue recycling in IFF reduces production cost. The small scale IFF is not only economical but also energy saving. It encourages recycling of wastes and helps in maintaining ecological balance. With utilization of animal manure as substitute for high cost inputs (fish feed, inorganic fertilizers), leading to reduced dependence, the IFF is self supporting, self sufficient and sustainable.

Further, other complementary enterprises like mushroom cultivation, vermi-composting, fodder grass cultivation and apiculture may be integrated to make the system more profitable.


Author is thankful to the Director of the G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment &Sustainable Development, Kosi-Katarmal, Almora, for encouragement and providing necessary facilities. Financial support from DST, Govt. of India, New Delhi is highly acknowledged.

Deepa Bisht
Scientist- DST
G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and
Development, Kosi-Katarmal,
Almora, Uttarakhand, India.

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