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Kerala Woman Turn Childhood Interest into Thriving Fish Farming Career, Managing a 50,000 Litre Tank

Meet Rethi Kumari, a former chemistry teacher from Kerala who transformed her passion for ornamental fish farming into a successful enterprise, gaining recognition from ICAR-CMFRI.

Shreetu Singh
Meet Rethi Kumari, a former chemistry teacher from Kerala who transformed her passion for ornamental fish farming into a successful enterprise, gaining recognition from ICAR-CMFRI.
Meet Rethi Kumari, a former chemistry teacher from Kerala who transformed her passion for ornamental fish farming into a successful enterprise, gaining recognition from ICAR-CMFRI.

Rethi Kumari, hailing from Onattukara in Kerala's Alappuzha district, has an inspiring journey that showcases her dedication and passion for ornamental fish farming. Recognized by the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on Women’s Day in March 2024, she stands out for her remarkable contributions to the field. As a beneficiary of CMFRI's Science-Technology Innovation (STI) Hub scheme, Rethi's story is one of resilience and transformation.

Rethi is a former chemistry teacher who pursued her teaching career for 15 years until family responsibilities prompted her to leave the job in 2017. After stepping away from teaching, she decided to follow her long-time passion for fish farming, which had remained a hobby throughout her teaching years.

Transition to Professional Fish Farming

Since childhood, Rethi had always been fascinated by aquariums and ornamental fish. After leaving her job, she began her journey into fish culture and breeding, starting with her first breed, the Guppy.

By 2019, Rethi had transitioned her hobby into a full-fledged profession, moving her fish breeding from small freeze boxes to a dedicated fish tank. As Rethi’s fish culture expanded, neighbors began sourcing breeds from her, marking the beginning of her entrepreneurial success. "Now I have five breeds of fish that involve Guppy fish, Angelfish,  Cichlid, Siamese fighting fish and Koi Carp fish, but when I started, I was having only two breeds. The journey was challenging, but the training and support from CMFRI made it possible" she recalls.

Training & Knowledge Acquisition

In 2022, Rethi attended a 10-day training program at the Kerala Institute for Entrepreneurship Development (KIED) and also in the same year, she attended another 10-day Entrepreneurship Development Programme In Aquaculture and Fisheries Sector (Sponsored by National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) Hyderabad). This training not only helped her to learn more about fish culture techniques and its marketing but also equipped her with the knowledge and confidence to pursue fish farming more seriously.

Government Support and Project Expansion

Between 2022 and 2023, Rethi embarked on a project known as the Medium Scale Ornamental Fish Rearing Unit (Marine and Freshwater Fish) undertaken by the Kerala government. For this project, Rethi took a loan of 8 lakh rupees. Later, she received a 60 percent subsidy for the project under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana.

Recognition & Current Operations

By 2024, Rethi received the Certificate of Excellence as an outstanding fisheries entrepreneur on International Women's Day, by CMFRI. Additionally, she was honored as the Best Ornamental Fisheries Entrepreneur of 2024 by the Muthukulam Block Panchayat.

Rethi Kumari with her Tank
Rethi Kumari with her Tank

Currently, she operates a substantial 50,000 litre tank, which shows her growth and dedication. Rethi mentions that she carefully selects fish breeds based on local research, choosing those less prone to disease and climate stress. Her family initially played a crucial role, and now they employ labor to manage operations.

Advanced Technology and Market Strategy

Rethi's farm, named 'Dear Guppy' after her first breed, is equipped with advanced technology such as biofilters for water recycling. She focuses on wholesale rather than retail, facilitating the sale of 5,000-10,000 fish at a time. Additionally, she offers courier services, delivering fish to Kerala and Karnataka, with plans to expand. With all her efforts she manages to earn about 5 lakh per annum.

Advice for Aspiring Fish Farmers

Her advice to beginners is to receive proper training on rates and technology use, monitor water quality, and promptly remove diseased fish. These practices, she believes, are essential for effective fish farming.

Rethi Kumari's journey from a chemistry teacher to an acclaimed ornamental fish farmer is a testament to her resilience, passion, and innovative spirit. Her story inspires others to pursue their dreams with determination and seek knowledge to overcome challenges.

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