By George Munene
Headquartered at Roo beach in Homa Bay county, Victory Farms is a vertically integrated fish business that spans tilapia hatcheries, nursery ponds, deep-water cages, a processing plant, and 45 retail outlets. Founded in 2015, the company is leading the local charge in meeting Kenya’s acute fish supply shortage.
According to the government’s 2019 budget policy statement, Kenya’s fish demand was estimated at 500,000 tonnes. However, local fish production stood at only 180,000 tonnes. The numbers of fish captured from natural water bodies have also been on a steady yearly decline owing to overfishing, illegal fishing, and cold weather. This has necessitated a reliance on Chinese imported fish which accounted for 8,900 tonnes in 2020, a Covid-19 induced drop from 18,074 tonnes, Sh2.2 billion worth of imported fish in 2019. Chinese imports made up 90 per cent of fish shipped into the country, mainly as frozen tilapia and mackerel.
“Kenya currently imports most of its fish from China. We need to build industries where we can be self-sufficient from our own water sources, and cage and pond farming provides a solution to that,” explained Farm manager Scott Dey.
Victory spans 216 acres. The company sources local tilapia fingerling strains from government hatcheries which are reared free of antibiotics. The hatchlings are transferred to offshore cages set up on 56 acres of Lake Victoria shores where they are reared to maturity.
Once harvested, the fish are in markets in under 48 hours. They are gutted, cleaned, and iced for transport in refrigerated trucks. Once at Nairobi they are warehoused in commercial refrigeration units to preserve their freshness. Delivery is done to Victory Farms’ outlets from where fishmongers buy them in small batches to cook and sell in local food markets.
Victory Farms directly employs 500 persons and provides tertiary employment to thousands of others along its value chain.
The company recently received a multi-million-dollar mezzanine debt investment from AgDevCo for its efforts at sustainably growing and developing Kenya’s aquaculture industry.