At the rice-fish-poultry-piggery farm of the University of Ibadan, students master the act of growing rice and animal husbandry in the same place. It is an integrated farm. The fish eat weeds, bugs and molluscs that carry pests; their waste acts as fertiliser while they stir up sediments that release nutrients which help the rice grow.

The model is unique, involving fish farming, poultry keeping, rice production and piggery. The pond meets the needs of the fish as well as enables the rice to be grown on-site, while complementing the rearing of poultry birds and pigs. There is a small mill & mix plant housed in the feed store which produce feeds for the unit. The university ensures that the pigs are fed with meals to boost their iron sufficiency.

Zinc oxide is added to the feed to reduce digestive upsets. The complex relies on natural ventilation for cooling. The finisher pens are not slatted, instead the floors are cemented with concrete, with manure swilled off twice daily into muck channels that run down both sides of the house. A big part of the business is the fish farm. The large fish pond is stocked with catfish. After harvesting, the catfish are smoked or sold fresh. The complementarity of the system is ensured with the use of rice grain and bran as feed for the poultry.

On the project, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Prof Bamidele Omitoyin, said the rice planted in the fish pond benefits from nutrients, in fish excreta. In addition, he said the aquatic weeds of rice are reduced due to fish presence. In turn, he said, the fish benefit from the favourable micro climate created by the rice plants. However, he said rice requires nutrients in the form of inorganic fertilisers, which the fish waste provides whereas fish needs nutrients in organic form. The essence of integrating them, he explained, is to allow the circulation of nutrients in various forms. He said poultry waste from the farm is recycled into the fish pond. The droppings of poultry birds, he added, are used to fertilise the pond.

To achieve this, he said the chicken waste from the poultry unit, built near the pond, is washed down through the delivery channel as organic fertiliser for the growing of rice. This, he added, helps farmers to avoid spending money in buying chemical fertiliser.The ponds also receive pig dungs. This waste, he explained, acts as excellent pond fertiliser and raises the biological productivity of the pond and consequently increases fish production and boost rice growth. To help the process, the pigsties are constructed in such a way that the washings are drained to the pond through a delivery channel. Omitoyin said the project could be started on one acre of land. According to him, would-be fish farmers will be taught to integrate rice with fish, poultry or piggery to increase production of yields. This model would help farmers realise so much profit from their investment than running a simple fish farm.

The integrated system, Omitoyin noted, provides benefits that each component by itself would not be able to achieve, creating more than the sum of its parts.
He explained that under normal conditions the expected harvest is rice and fish. With this system, he added that the farmer is not provided with a single product, such as rice, but a range of integrated products including fish, poultry and pig. At present, the farm serves as a rice-based integrated farming system model that other farmers can replicate. The project occupies an expansive area.

Farmers, students and researchers say it is a model integrated fish farm with rice grown inside a fish pond. It has been attracting local and international tourists, who come to see a demonstration farm where fish bred and integrated with some agricultural products such as rice, pigs and poultry to optimise yields. He said rice-fish cultivation is a viable business and the university is determined to promote the adoption of the system among farmers to improve food security on small, subsistence family farms and encourage efficient and effective use of water.

Because of the success of the project, the university has invited stakeholders and farmers to come and see the demonstration farm. The farm is used to train extension officers, farmers and students on aquaculture. Agriculture and fisheries students also go to the farm for school attachment.

Omitoyin noted, however, that space, labour and capital must be integrated and properly utilised for optimum farm output. He stated that fisheries and aquaculture are a big source of income, adding that there are lots of business opportunities in fish farming.

The project signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP-Nigeria) on fingerlings multiplication and dissemination of the integrated fish farming across 12 states in Nigeria.