Fish farm a way of life
Kristina Adams has been surrounded by fish virtually all her life. She vividly remembers the pet stores her late father Winston Adams operated and the aquariums he owned.
This ambitious young woman believes her inheritance from him included “a passion for fish”.
Add a previous work stint at the former Ocean Park to the equation and casual observers would say Adams was destined to be the fish farmer she now is.
In reality it was not that straightforward for the 29- year-old entrepreneur, who recently won the first Bank On Me contest for entrepreneurs and is the owner and operator of aquaculture farm, Adams Aqualife.
While she readily admits being “naturally good with fish”, Adams journeyed to the University of Guelph in Canada intent on being a veterinarian.
“I wanted to be a vet originally, that is why I went to Canada, but over there I did a couple fish courses and eventually my teachers convinced me to focus on fish farming,” she recalled.
“As a kid growing up you didn’t want to be a farmer so I suffered from the same thing that many Bajans suffer. You never wake up as a kid and say ‘I want to be a farmer’, you say ‘I want to be a vet’ or something else. So obviously I took vet in my mind because of the pet stores and because I was always around animals.
“I guess I never thought that you could do a fish farm here, honestly. I think I limited myself to all the traditional things that Bajans do and it’s only when the Canadians started to tell me ‘no, no, you can do fish farming’ and I started to look into it that I decided there was really no reason that it couldn’t be done except for the average Bajan saying ‘oh, Bajans don’t eat freshwater fish, that’s going to fail’. That was the average comment I used to get, ‘it’s going to fail’,” Adams said.
Ignoring the doubters on her return home in 2006 and fortified by the support from her teachers in Canada and the full backing of her loved ones here, she decided to fully utilize her university degree in biological science, backing it up with a master’s in marine and coastal management at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
The seed that was planted in North America eventually emerged in 2010 when, after extensive research and planning, she secured a loan from Enterprise Growth Fund Limited and started building the fish farm in St Philip.
Adams currently owns six tanks, each accommodating between 500 and 1 000 fish of choice – red tilapia. She runs the farm with the support of her best friends, including Andrew Barrow and Jennifer Dawn-Hole.
A “typical day” for her is “quite simple”, largely because the farming system she uses is not labour intensive.
“The system itself is fairly automatic, it’s a recirculating system, which means that the water goes through a filter and then is sent back to the fish. So generally you just go through in the morning and you run some checks to make sure all of your equipment is running properly and you do that again in the evening and usually during the day it’s all about feeding, as many feeds as you can get in,” she explained.
“And then in terms of the system you clean it once a week depending on how many fish you have in the system.”
Having won Bank On Me and along with it increased monetary and other support the workload is going to increase, but Adams is excited at the prospect that the restaurant and hotel guests who now feast on her fish will be joined by other Barbadians purchasing Adams Aqualife tilapia from supermarkets and other outlets. This was in addition to the red claw crayfish she will also be growing and selling commercially.
The young woman said winning Bank On Me was a dream come true and very timely since when she submitted her application two days before the deadline she was looking for investors to help grow her business.
“Honestly it was a dream come true winning that show because everything basically fell into place. I was ecstatic on learning I had won; that’s the best part of my journey through the fish farm, winning this, because I had been working so hard on it and it was like I was working, working, working and wasn’t seeing an end in sight. I knew it could be very big but I couldn’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, but being on the show the light was coming closer and I figured ‘all I had to do is win this’ and once I win this everything I was dreaming about would happen,” she said.
“I had a lot of support. Unfortunatley for me both of my parents have passed away, my dad passed away at the very beginning when I got my loan, two months after, but he was very supportive. My sister . . . my close family friends, and my best friend, which was fantastic. It is amazing how many people out there were watching and rooting for me,” Adams said proudly.
Having has silenced the doubters and won over new investors, this entrepreneur’s journey is far from over.
Establishing a successful business and earning an income for herself is not her sole motivation. She wants to prove that there is a place in Barbadian agriculture for young people.
“I hope that a lot of people will look at me as an inspiration to get back into farming and I would love to get young people back into farming. I think a lot of the farming practices in Barbados tend to be outdated, that’s the honest truth, so they don’t appeal to a young person because nobody really wants to go out there and break their back all day long for a very small amount of money,” she said.
“ . . . . I think it is vital to show young people that there are new ways of farming that are just as good as being a doctor or engineer.”
Her advice to entrepreneurs, especially youthful ones with innovative ideas, was to be determined.
As far as she was concerned being stubborn in such circumstances was also good thing, pointing out that she was living proof of this.
“Whether people laughed at me and said it was not possible I just kept going. You have to be a little bit stubborn, that’s the truth. It’s not about being foolish; I did my research, I did my checks, I went to Agrofest, I took a lot of advice, I just tried to be very practical in everything I did and just ignored all the people that would say it’s not going to work,” Adams said.