MUSCAT, AUG 27 – In yet another triumph for student entrepreneurship in the Sultanate, a group of undergraduates of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) is preparing to launch Oman’s first fish feed plant – an initiative that will go a long way in substituting costly imports by the Sultanate’s rapidly expanding aquaculture sector.
Mouj, as the new company is known, is the collective brainchild of 14 Omani students who joined hands to compete in the 2017 edition of INJAZ Oman’s Al Sharikati Competition for new student-led start-ups.
Mouj’s founder, Mohammed Nour-aldin al Farsi (pictured), says the project, when fully commercialised, will have important implications for the sustainable development of Oman’s fledging, yet hugely promising, fish farming industry.
“We are looking to target the land-based aquaculture segment of the market, which currently depends entirely on imports for its requirements of fish feed. Given the growth potential of this industry, with 14 tilapia-based fish farms already in operation around the Sultanate, we foresee significant opportunity for the uptake of our feed output,” Al Farsi said in comments to the Observer.
Mouj is backed by a motley grouping of 14 undergraduates of SQU hailing from disciplines as diverse as Media Communications and Law, on the one hand, and Agriculture and Chemical Engineering, on the other, Mohammed, who studied Marketing at the university, explained.
At the heart of the project is a uniquely conceived Omani product that enables land-based fish farms to cultivate fish far more rapidly and sustainably. “What is special about our brand of fish feed is that it contains a higher proportion of protein, which contributes to a higher rate of growth in the farmed fish. This has been validated by research conducted at the university over a year ago. Additionally, the primary ingredient for Mouj is fish meal, which is being sourced from local fishermen rather than from commercial producers. This enables us to produce a wholly organic type of fish feed that is completely free of any chemical-based preservatives.”
Mouj, which currently operates from leased premises near Al Bustan in Old Muscat, is initially looking at an output of three metric tonnes per week earmarked for its first customer — a fish farm located in Barka. Domestic demand presently averages around 25 metric tonnes per month – a figure that Mouj’s young shareholders are optimistic about meeting when they launch commercial-scale operations from a new location currently under evaluation.
“We are looking at relocating to custom-built facilities either in Barka or Al Musannah within proximity of the many fish farms in operation along the Batinah coast. Our feasibility studies and business model have been finalised, and we are getting geared for the next phase of our growth and development.”
Earlier this month, Mouj and its founding members won applause at an aquaculture forum organised by Ithraa, Oman’s inward investment and export development agency. The ‘student’ company’s success in snagging a major fish feed order early on its development was hailed as an example of the commercial opportunities that await student start-ups in the Sultanate.