Georgia’s regions have an abundant supply of water thanks to the snowy peaks of the Caucasus Ridge. Keda is one of the municipalities of Adjara that receives a plentiful amount of this water. Among other benefits, these conditions are favorable for farming young fry. Keda’s plentiful water supply was the reason for the establishment of a modern and well-equipped fish nursery in Tsoniarisi, a village in Keda municipality. Foreji, an association that develops organic aquaculture, facilitates the project to ensure that healthy fry are hatched from quality-bred roe, guaranteeing an uninterrupted supply for fisheries throughout the business year.
According to a company representative, Ms. Sopo Diasamidze, fish-farming is not an easy task but the company’s team fully recognizes its responsibility and is therefore bound for success:
”Generally speaking, fish-farming is a risky endeavor, that’s why we’ve tried to take all possible complications into account in order to reduce threats as much as possible. We did change the traditional approach to fish-farming, breaking stereotypes and, for the first time in Georgia, employed six local women at the facility. Of course, this has been very beneficial and our employees fully share responsibilities and perform their duties with much more enthusiasm. This novel approach turned out to be an engaging job for our people, helping us to properly and efficiently manage production processes and, today, I daresay, we have achieved some good results through this teamwork.”
For Sopo, fish-farming is not just a business but something tied up with many emotions and memories. Sopo’s father was a self-taught fish farmer and used to own several trout nurseries. It used to be a hobby for her, but following her father’s death Sopo turned her hobby into a responsibility. She has been told throughout her childhood about the great possibilities Georgia possessed in the fishery business and how development of the field was of great importance:
”Unfortunately, my father passed away when he was only 59. There were many things he didn’t have time to complete, many dreams that he didn’t manage to accomplish, so I felt it was my duty to continue where he left off. I fell in love with this job, and it seems to me now that there are no impossible tasks in fishery any longer. I believe everything can be managed, given enough time, and I’m sure that at one point this difficult road will lead to useful, necessary, and important developments in fish farming in Georgia. What I wanted was a fishery that would advance the field in general in my country. It was a great dream and a great goal that I would have failed at if not for the support of my friends.
It should be mentioned that the development of Sopo’s enterprise was greatly supported by the EU-funded Keda Leader project being carried out within the scope of the ENPARD II (European Neighborhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) program in cooperation with CENN and its partner organizations: the Center for Strategic Research and Development, the Democracy Institute and the Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning. The development of the Keda Municipality is supported by local development groups, established within the framework of the Keda Leader project, whose aim is to ensure informed decision-making through cooperation with the local rural population, taking into account local social, economic, cultural, and environmental considerations.
The main goal of Foreji is to recover abandoned nurseries throughout Adjara. It is said that the fishery sector has many mutually interlinked issues, so one of the items on the agenda is dealing with these in due course. The team has conducted many studies in this regard, relying on foreign expertise as well:
”Experts we’ve brought into Georgia have helped us outline problems to address. For instance, one issue is the lack of genetically healthy fry, but that problem has already been resolved at our nursery. Also, fish-feed is still an issue since it is imported from several countries and is not produced locally. Costs are high, making up to 70% of the final price of the fish. Fish diseases should be also be mentioned. Our association is actively engaged in working on these issues and I do hope we come up with effective solutions in the near future.
In addition, the main task Foreji sees for itself is changing the minds of fish farmers. Currently, the general mindset both hinders development of the field and cripples the income of the farmers. Therefore, Sopo and her team consider it their main duty to effectively change the ways in which farmers approach fish-farming by sharing best practices.
Since the company is offering high-quality trout fry (so-called “clean genetics”) throughout the year, their customers have a good chance of becoming sustainable fish-producers on the market. Apart from that, the company team provides farmers with advice during the period of fish growth, helping them to enter the market as well. The main niche the company has found for itself is high quality production. Hydro-resources required for the purpose are represented by pure, good quality water – essential in trout-breeding.
The company is moving forward step by step. For the time being, Foreji is producing quality fry, with future plans including their own maternal stock of fish. Establishing a movable piscine lab is also in the works. The company believes that, in order to leave their mark on the fishery sector, there is still a lot of work to be done. However, thanks to Keda Leader, that which matters most has already been done – the enterprise is actively operating and building a strong foundation for the future.