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  1. Well over the years I have posted threads on the subject of fish farming and lobster huts because not only are they an interest to me but I see them as a sound investment capable of generating sound consistent profits; for this reason fish ponds and lobster huts can be a viable business venture for fellow expats who are looking for possible revenue streams to subsidize their incomes. Since I have moved in the Surigao City/Dinagat Island area in 2008 I have built three small lobster huts two of which were built recently. Raising lobsters is a good venture for investment due to the high demand and expanding export market and relatively low start up costs. I choose to raise lobsters in very small amounts in what I guess could be considered the proverbial 'big toe' testing the waters before investing any large sum into the venture. In fact I kept the venture more as a rather enjoyable hobby for the most part, as the lobster huts made for a great little getaway spot which also allowed us to occasionally drop a few tasty little sea bugs in the steamer. A steamed lobster along side a nice seared piece of dead cow and some fresh vegetables is a rather nice treat from time to time. The largest and certainly the most common problem one experiences when trying to begin and operate long-term fish farms and lobster huts is locating a consistent and healthy source of fish and lobster fingerlings to drop into the nets. In the case of lobsters this is especially true as there is an ever increasing number of those engaged in raising lobsters but currently the demand for lobster fingerlings is far out-stripping the available supply. The reason for this restriction of supply is due to the fact that most lobster fingerlings are live-catch from the waters and oceans around the islands of the Philippines and are therefore more seasonal. Being live-catch the supply is dependent on fishermen and their ability to locate and safely collect fingerlings. This current supply line is very labor intensive and at considerable investment and costs to the fishermen. Then there are the middlemen and handlers involved in the distribution of supply to the individual lobster growers. Often suppliers will ship their stock long distances with inadequate handling practices leading to extremely high loss of the fingerlings once they are delivered. Loses can easily be higher than 50% of the fingerlings purchased by the individual lobster growers. One soon realizes the potential environmental impact to the natural lobster populations in these surrounding waters but also the financial burden consistently burdened by the small growers. If a small grower purchases 100 fingerlings (AAA battery size) at 250php he has invested 25,000php and as a fair average at time of market each fingerling is 1//2 kilo in weight. So if the current market price from the lobster buyers is 2,200 php than the average market size of the lobster is 1/2 kilo than the grower can expect each of his 100 fingerlings to fetch an average of 1,100php each, therefore his initial investment of 25,000php can potentially yield a net price of 110,000; then of course one has to consider his 8-12 month in raising the fingerlings which involves his labor costs, feed, fuel, personal expenses, ect. He can still have a profit and have his seed money for the next new crop of fingerlings. But if he experienced a 50% lost the first three weeks after he received his shipment of fingerlings then in reality he did not pay 250php each for 100 fingerlings, rather he in fact paid 500php each for 50 fingerlings which cuts his net yield at market to only 55,000php and would have still had the same extra expenses incurred during the 8-12 months the fingerlings were in this nets. Sad thing is it is not uncommon to have loses of 70% or more, most I would venture was do to improper care and handling while in the hands of the suppliers and transporters They still keep their profits and they offer no refunds so the burden of the loss financially is solely shouldered by the small independent lobster grower. Greed is now driving the costs for fingerlings even higher virtually placing a stranglehold on the small growers. Those who can invest in much larger volumes can more easily saddle this loss and still generate sizable profits. It does not exactly take an Einstein or a Hawkins to see there must be a better ways and an opportunity to workout a viable solution and create a new market opportunity. This realization along with a lose of 70% from a bad crop of delivered fingerlings is what initially inspired me to devote the last five years researching the biology of lobsters and study the viability and the various processes required to try to farm raise lobsters. So in early 2010 I began to try to seek out any reliable source of information I could find on the internet. I have to say that information is sketchy at best and one really has to dig to locate any useful information, and though there have been facilities raising lobster larvae for well over 100 years most available information is on the cold water clawed lobster varieties. There is really very little on the tropical varieties such as the 'Panulirus ornatus' commonly named Ornate Spiny Lobster and their 11 larval stages. One can only piece together the layouts of current facilities being used around the world from vague references written in published papers, photos and various short glimpses in videos posted on the internet. So as I was conducting the research I was taking mental notes and started making sketches of the different equipment that these various facilities needed to successfully develop a working lobster hatchery. What I soon realized was the sheer expense and size of these facilities making them impractical for a normal investor to construct with an eye for generating enough profits to make such a venture worth the immense investment. There is a reason they are all nonprofit entities requiring government, university and corporate sponsored. I soon realized that the old mindset needed to be totally scrapped and that I needed to try to figure out if a little adaptation, redneck ingenuity and looking at the problem through a poor man's eye. How could a system be simplified and streamlined to the point a small facility could be built using mostly common items at a cost where a small investor or group of investors could afford to build? I would have to redesign the floor plans, equipment, and the various processes, I would need to incorporate a way to provide the adequate feed requirements at each stage of larvae development while remaining environmentally-friendly. Try to design the facility to remain fully operational during long-term electrical brownouts or even where it could be totally independent from the local electric power grid through the incorporation of alternative power sources and associated technologies. I would have to conceptually simplify, streamline and design a small working facility prototype along with all the equipment and processes associated with such a facility; which would be easily replicated even in the more remote areas, and most important a facility which would be profitable with low startup capital and low yearly operational and maintenance cost. Easy right? Well after over six years I am finally able to take what has been merely conceptional to this point and have started building my little prototype facility. I can prove my concept can actually be a reality. If my concept proves to meet or exceed my minimum production figures it would be something that could revolutionize and energize the one factor restricting a growing industry The ability to cost effectively provide healthy lobster fingerlings to small growers and a cost where they can increase profits and help further stimulate the economies in more rural committees throughout these islands. A month ago we made the move from our farm to a small residence my business partner built for my wife and I to stay while working on this venture. The location has the perfect topography for such a facility to be successful. I will be posting photos and videos on this thread as this project progresses through all the various stages. This project involves many different aspects other than just building the hatchery as reliable power backups are going to be required. I will be designing and constructing solar panel arrays, tidal flow generators using paddle wheels and wind generators using windmills. Also I will eventually require both freshwater and saltwater floating net cages, floating walkways and platforms, boathouses and other equipment needed to raise a wide assortment of different freshwater and saltwater species and will eventually start a protected mariculture sanctuary. Once I have constructed the facility and all the floating net cage setups I will show how to establish a business as a lobster buyer and how to package and ship live lobster for world markets. So this thread will be covering a wide range of topics such as alternative power generation, mariculture, aquaculture, meat production, farm and gardening topics, in-depth freshwater/saltwater fish farming information and tips, and information of food requirements and feeding schedules. I should also add that the facility will first focus on lobster production but will later also include oysters, abalone, clams and other assorted mussels and crustaceans and crabs; as well as the primary food sources: shrimp, brine shrimp, rototillers, planktonic/benthic copepods and algae. Each will later be discussed in more detail as I build the setups for their production. There will be new information added weekly this project progresses. This thread is going to be much more than just talking about lobsters, I so hope members and those merely visiting the forum to view this thread will find it both informative and entertaining and well worth following for the many months to come.
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