Farmer's Notebook; Using fish waste to make a low-budget crop nutrient

Updated - June 11, 2016 10:58 pm IST

Published - February 28, 2013 12:52 am IST



Mindless usage of chemical fertilizers and spraying pesticides to increase yields have made farming a commercial exercise profiting only some private companies rather than a small farmer.

“The challenge today is to generate a better yield and income from small farms using locally available materials since more than 80 per cent of farmers in India are small farmers,” says Dr. Kamalasanan Pillai, Head of the R&D, Vivekananda Kendra –Natural Resources Development (Vk- Nardep), an NGO in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu.

While cattle-dung based formulations are well known, still not all marginal farmers are cattle owners – particularly cow – which is essential for indigenous formulations. Some of these formulations are also costly for a marginal farmer.

New technology

Vk-nardep developed a new technology using fish wastes to make a nutrient that offers all the vital ingredients needed for crop growth in an organic way through locally available resources.

“Though fish is available throughout the year, during the post monsoon season huge quantity of fish waste as well as non-edible fish related waste are generated both in village markets and also in household kitchens.

The disposal of this waste material poses a big problem. As the fish-waste contains rich proteins, it cannot be kept beyond 24 hours. This waste material becomes the basic substrate for the bio-formulation developed by us. This also solves the problem of pollution and waste-disposal,” says Dr. Pillai.

Giving details on how the fish substrate can be done he says:

About 20 kg of fish waste is collected and stored in a plastic can of 40 litres capacity.

To this 10 litre of water is added followed by 20-30 ml papaya latex. The papaya latex (pappain) is collected after making a small cut on the surface of a mature green papaya fruit. The material is mixed well with pappain and kept for 5-8 hrs. The vessel is kept closed with stirring every hour.


After five to eight hours, jaggary solution (four kg jaggary dissolved in five litres of water) is added to the fish substrate and stirred well. This mixture is allowed to ferment well for 15-20 days. The scales and fish bones get degraded well within this period.

After the stipulated day the extract is prepared by adding two to five times water to the fermented material.

The extract can be filtered and applied to plants, preferably as a foliar spray. The undigested part if any, can be used as manure for the soil.

Shelf life

For increasing shelf life further, the extract can be filtered using a muslin cloth followed by pressure filtration to get rid of small solid particles.

The material filtered with the pressure filter can be kept for a period of three months and used when necessary. To use this as spray dilute 250 to 500 ml of the extract in 10 litres of water.

Farmers are advised to spray this after 4 pm in the evening for best results.

“The formulation can be used for all vegetable and flower crops. The technology is particularly useful for those who do not have cattle.

It also benefits the waste disposal problem of local fish markets and restaurants – particularly the fish waste. Extensive trials have been conducted by our institute using this fish extract on crops like lady’s finger, amaranthus, palak, brinjal and tomato and have fetched good results,” he explains.

Amino extract from chemical source/commercial brands available in the market costs Rs. 300 per litre while the locally made fish-amino costs only Rs. 40-50. It is ecologically safer than chemicals and has also pest repellent effect. “We are working to see how beneficial this extract is for paddy and banana crops as well,” he adds.


VK-nardep work is on seeking sustainable solutions to address the environmental and agriculture related issues and innovates sustainable alternatives. It regulalry organises awareness camps, seminars, workshops and brings out publications on sustainable farming practices. To know more contact Dr.P.Kamalasanan Pillai, Project Coordinator,Vivekananda Kendra - NARDEP,,Kanyakumari – 629 702,,Tamilnadu, ), e.mail :, web :, mobile : 09387212005, phone: 04652 246296.

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