Growing Together: Croatian carp farm starts a new African catfish RAS

Ribnjaci Kupa d.o.o. is a Croatian carp farm with a 370 ha water surface. Like many other carp farms in Eastern Europe, it was built as a state investment in 1970-ies. In 1990-ies, it was privatized a few times, and last 14 years, it has been in the ownership of the company Adriamar, which specializes in military shipbuilding. In Ribnjaci Kupa, they realized very soon that traditional carp farming (based on feeding with cereals, 3 -4 years production cycle) is not feasible in today's circumstances. First, carp ponds should be renewed; such a high investment is not economically reasonable. Moreover, traditional carp farming is very demanding in human power, where production of 10-20 tons per year/per worker is not feasible. Many restrictions (due to Natura 2000 rules) make the situation even more complicated, and carp farm is faced with significant losses from predatory birds and many limitations in farming.

For those reasons, Ribnjaci Kupa started very early to invest in innovative ways of intensive farming and simultaneous species diversification. About ten years ago, Ribnjaci Kupa began to cooperate with G2O d.o.o. company (as consultants), and their mutual actions resulted in the following:

-         Intensive carp farming in smaller ponds

-         Intensive carp farming in a tank-by-pond system

-         Sturgeon farming in a flow-through system, based on utilization of inlet water which supplies big ponds

-         Production of African catfish in RAS.

-         Processing fish in its facility

The company's strategy is based on intensive farming in small areas and extensive farming in combination with touristic activities on big ponds. Wastewater from intensive farming is utilized in big ponds as a manuring effect.

The synergy between modern and traditional farming is achieved, with superb results in natural preservation, eco-intensification, and no-waste philosophy.

The biggest potential in biomass presents African catfish farming in RAS.; about ten years ago, Ribnjaci Kupa was the first company in Croatia to get a permit for production. They build test units, simple RAS. with 50 t/y capacity. After ten years of "learning by doing," a profound understanding of African farming catfish in RAS was achieved with cooperation between Ribnjaci Kupa and G2O, so the company decided to make reconstruction and expansion of existing RAS. In 2023 new RAS with the capacity of 150 t/y started to operate, presenting the next level of African catfish farming in RAS.

What differentiates this system from others is the ultimate reduction in energy consumption (about 0,5 kWh/kg of fish), simultaneous production of fingerlings and growing in the same system, and footprint utilization (about 1 m3 water/m2 building), to name a few.

After all these years of African farming catfish, it is still fascinating that 1 m2 of African catfish RAS produces about the same quantity of fish as 1 ha (10 000 m2) of pond surface. The constant decline in carp production in Europe is one of the possible solutions expansions of African catfish farming in the existing carp farms. Based on Ribnjaci Kupa experiences, many other carp farms have shown growing interest.

All the planes of Ribnjaci Kupa can only be achieved with high-quality extruded feed, and Aller Aqua has been the exclusive partner and feed supplier for Ribnjaci Kupa for the last ten years.

Aller Aqua's contribution to the development of Ribnjaci Kupa is not only a fish feed supplier of constantly high quality and best price/quality ratio but also extensive support in sharing the ''know-how'', enabling networking, and different kinds of support a partner needs to grow.

The story of Ribnjaci Kupa is a pure case of the “Let's grow together" strategy of Aller Aqua.