By Upasana Sarraju and Abhishek Pandey
In this report, we present an analysis of a large survey of Indian aquaculture farmers that we conducted in March 2023. This investigation has strong potential to help us adapt our Fish Welfare Standard based on shared characteristics across farms, variations across the surveyed regions, and changing needs of farmed fishes in Andhra Pradesh, India.
Learnings from the Survey
We polled 505 farmers across four regions of Andhra Pradesh. Our objective here was to deepen our understanding of farmers, farms, and farming practices in regions that are relevant to our field operations.
This survey encompassed different aspects of higher-welfare aquaculture: farmers and demography, awareness of fish welfare, farm characteristics, and farming practices.
Collecting self-reported information from a large number of farmers helped us identify the following key learnings.
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Most farmers believe that a higher-welfare environment is extremely important for fishes.
When asked "How important do you think it is for fishes to have a higher-welfare environment? " over 62% of farmers responded, "Extremely important." We believe most farmers are aware that the safety, well-being, and health of fishes are closely tied to their living environment in farms. We see a potential path forward in our farmer engagement that sufficiently emphasizes the role of our corrective actions in meeting the welfare needs of fishes.
Most farmers have access to the internet via mobile phones and would like to receive information about market prices on their phones. Currently, farmers rely on traders—middlemen between farmers and fish procurers—for this information.
Farmers value water quality testing higher than market linkages, farm input support, or access to financial support. In most farms, water quality is tested one or two times a month. Where performed less frequently, a three-month gap between tests is observed.
A vast majority of farms have access to electricity (for at least 12 hours in a day) and water (for up to nine months in a year). Most farms have no equipment, and those that do, have paddlewheel aerators.
Fishes are fed based on how much feed a farmer believes is sufficient (called blind feeding) or until the fishes appear fully satiated. It is common in many farms to pause feeding the fishes for up to two days a month, during which the fishes feed only on the naturally-occurring phytoplankton. An equal number of farms do not pause feeding at all.
Pond preparation, a process that is essential to maintaining a positive environment conducive to higher fish welfare, is performed at least every three years in a typical farm.
There was a noticeable variation across the four districts we studied in how farmers prioritized potential incentives, composition of fish feed, and access to electricity.
According to farmers, the top three causes of diseases and mortality are the climate, low water quality, and pollution, in that order.
Designing the Large Survey
To ensure objectivity, we crafted survey questions that encourage quantitative responses. The survey took 2.5 weeks to finalize, incorporating expert consultations to yield meaningful data for our ongoing efforts.
All participating farmers willingly gave their consent, ensuring that ethical considerations were upheld throughout the study. In total, we surveyed 505 farmers, including information on 810 individual farms across four districts of Andhra Pradesh, India.
The Survey’s Impact
We intended for this survey to place significant emphasis on capturing detailed farm characteristics, challenges in a typical farm, and the priorities of a typical farmer in Andhra Pradesh. This deliberate focus aimed to gather essential data to improve our welfare interventions.
We believe that the survey findings will enable us to better understand our field sites, and thus tailor interventions and guidelines that are not only effective but also feasible within the context of small, rural farming operations.
The survey has also helped us identify targets for further investigation and experimentation. We will continue to share updates in future posts.