MEMBAKUT: Cheaper and competitive homemade fish food pellets invented by a 42-year-old single mother here has huge potential to save the outflow of ringgit overseas as all protein sources for fish food pellets are imported.
The formula, created by Nurliza Mait Abdullah using accessible local materials and protein sources here, has caught the attention of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who is interested to patent the formula.
He said the ministry will send a team to look into the potential of developing the locally made fish food pellets invented and created by Nurliza, including providing proper assistance for her to produce them commercially.
Such effort is commendable, he said, considering that the biggest challenge faced by aquaculture breeders, including in rearing and breeding freshwater fish, is to bear the high cost of buying the fish food pellets.
"I am impressed and drawn to the business model managed by Nurliza in managing her cottage industry of breeding freshwater fish, particularly Africa catfish and Tilapia, where I learnt two things from her in the aspect of value chain.
"Apart from creating the parent fish to produce fingerlings, she has taken a step forward by being creative and inventing her own formula to produce own fish food pellets using anchovy heads, tapioca leaves and sago dust, among others, as the protein sources for her fish, which are easy to get and very cheap.
"Hence, I believe that if such invention is further developed on a larger scale, the formula could save our money from going out of the country as the food pellets in the country are using soya bean and corn as their main source of protein where all are imported," he said.
Ahmad Shabery said this to reporters after a working visit to Nurliza's fish ponds that rear and breed Africa catfish, tilapia and ikan Lampan Jawa at Kg Limadang, here.
Foreign Minister-cum-Kimanis MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman invited Ahmad Shabery to visit the aquaculture project carried out by Nurliza near her house, in particular, to see the potential of making her own fish food pellets.
Ahmad Shabery also presented various machinery, piping equipment and netting worth RM25,000 provided by the ministry via the Fisheries Department to be used for her freshwater fish project.
Also present were Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister cum Membakut Assemblyman Datuk Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif, community leaders and other senior officials.
Developing Nurliza's homemade fish pellets, Ahmad Shabery said, could give big profit margins to the freshwater fish breeders and that they will enjoy a lucrative income.
"Nurliza is smart when she chose to use anchovy heads as its source of protein in making the fish pellets because it is very easy to get as Kimanis is well known for its anchovy products where the heads are discarded and considered as waste.
"Her idea was brilliant and she made the right choice based on accessibility of the source," he said.
Meanwhile, Nurliza told reporters that her homemade fish food pellets have saved 70 per cent in operational cost of running and managing the freshwater fish as she does not have to buy the fish pellets available in the market.
She said she was inspired to create her own homemade fish food pellets after attending a course organised by the Fisheries Department.
"Actually I started this freshwater fish project to breed the Africa catfish, tilapia and lampan jawa in 1996 based on my passion and interest in breeding the fish. However, three years later I stopped all my 10 fish ponds as I could not afford to buy the fish food pellets which really burdened my financial standing after I spent RM20,000 as my capital in the project.
"However, I did not give up as I attended courses organised by the Sabah Fisheries Department that are relevant to my interest and from there, I was inspired to address the main factor of my failure which was to produce cheaper fish pellets. In 2015, I started the project again and I am doing much better.
"So that is how I started to be creative and innovative in coming up with my own formula to produce my own fish homemade pellets that have quality," she said.
The mother of two said she is committed to develop her freshwater fish project so that she could harvest 100 kilogrammes a month compared to 50kg presently due to high demand for the freshwater fish in Membakut and Beaufort.
On the potential of the freshwater fish industry in Sabah, Ahmad Shabery said the ministry has set a target of producing 8,500 metric tonnes that will bring about RM125 million a year in Sabah.
Presently, he said, Sabah is producing about 3,500 metric tonnes of freshwater fish and the State is among the states in the country producing the largest volumes in the country.
"I am optimistic that we can achieve the targeted production of the freshwater fish that will double the present 3,500 metric tonnes.
"This is because there is a tendency among the people to start up aquaculture projects not only at sea or in cages but on land which is becoming a culture to earn income.
"The outstanding example is Nurliza's freshwater fish project in breeding catfish and tilapia here," Ahmad Shabery said.