Under a greenhouse measuring 1 thousand square meters located on a farm in Apucarana, in the Northwest of Paraná state, there are eight tanks with a joint capacity of 600 cubic meters of water. In these reservoirs Flávio Cesar Urizzi, from SJ Fish, has been growing tilapia juveniles (the stage after the fish is fully grown) since 2017, using a technology known as biofloc in a rare production system that allows water reuse.
This model allows for shorter production cycles and the ability to raise a larger volume of fish in a smaller space. Urizzi can produce 600 thousand juveniles in cycles ranging from 30 to 60 days. A key component in Urizzi’s production system, bioflocs are organic particles put in the tanks that remain suspended in the fishponds.
These compounds foster the development of microscopic organisms, such as fungi, microalgae, and heterotrophic bacteria, which function as a kind of natural filtration system. The water takes on a darker, brownish color. The biological processes of these microorganisms also transform impurities and effluents into substances beneficial to the fish. “All of this requires more management. For example, we need to estimate the number of flocs daily and continuously generate oxygen in the system. But this model allows for constant water reuse. It is sustainable,” explains Urizzi.
The tanks at SJ Fish, for instance, receive the fingerlings and raise them until they reach the juvenile stage. The fish leave the tanks weighing between 10 and 40 g and are sold to other fish farmers, primarily those who work with excavated tanks or net cages.
This model is also ideal for small properties, like the area Urizzi had available when he chose to invest in fish farming – the space of a deactivated poultry house.
Urizzi explains that the biofloc system allows for better control compared to other production models, reducing fish mortality. “Juveniles are sensitive. A temperature variation of 6 degrees already leads to losses. In excavated tanks, out of 10 thousand fingerlings, only 2 thousand will reach the juvenile stage. In the biofloc system, we have control measures that minimize mortality,” points out Urizzi. “That’s why producers who work with excavated tanks prefer to buy fish already in the juvenile stage.”
Another advantage relates to stocking density. In conventional excavated tanks, the production capacity ranges between 4 and 5 kg/m3. In systems with aerators, the average density increases to 8 kg/m3. On the other hand, in the biofloc model, one can raise up to 25 kg of fish per cubic meter of water.
This is because, in addition to water quality control, the tanks are equipped with oxygenation systems, blowers that run continuously, and aerators that are activated as needed. “Since the environment is controlled, the fish grow healthier and in a shorter cycle. In an excavated tank, the cycle would take 100 to 120 days. We produce them in half that time,” says the fish farmer.
“Our water comes from a spring and is constantly reused. If we were to achieve the same production volume in excavated tanks, we would need 1.2 hectares of water surface,” he explains. As expected, this production model demands significant energy consumption.
Therefore, Urizzi invested in a photovoltaic system with 120 panels, which produces 60% of the energy consumed in the production of juveniles at SJ Fish. Once the financing is paid off, the producer intends to make a new investment so that 100% of the energy consumed by the facility comes from renewable sources.
The model in numbers:
- 7 tanks of 70 m3 each
- 1 tank of 160 m3
- 600 m3 of water from a spring
- Production of up to 600 thousand tilapia juveniles per cycle
- Juveniles leave the tanks weighing between 10 and 40 g
- Production cycle of 30 to 60 days
- Production density of up to 25 kg/m3
- 120 photovoltaic panels that produce 60% of the energy consumed in the system
From the IT field to becoming a reference in fish farming
Until 2017, Urizzi had been far removed from rural production. Until then, his focus had been on the digital world. With two degrees in Information Technology, Urizzi built a career developing systems for banks, particularly Internet banking. He lived almost 20 years in Curitiba, in an urban routine.
Due to his father’s health problems, he ended up leaving city life and taking over the family’s rural property in Apucarana. The family used to allocate 32 hectares for growing soybeans and corn, as well as a building where they raised broiler chickens until 2016. Reviving the poultry house would require a significant investment. That’s when Urizzi started exploring alternatives to make use of that space. “That’s when I realized that intensive fish farming could be feasible and a good source of income. From then on, I started specializing,” says the producer.
Before implementing the fish farming project, Urizzi made technical visits to a unit at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), which was researching biofloc cultivation. He also took courses offered by SENAR-PR and sought training in São Paulo and Florianópolis.
Even with the facilities up and running, the fish farmer never stopped delving deeper into the subject. In 2022, he took part in the Rural Entrepreneur Program (PER) by the FAEP/SENAR-PR System, where he developed a project for expanding the business by implementing fingerling production on the property. “The study proved that the project is viable, and I intend to implement it. Since its cost is not small, I plan to finish paying off recent investments before implementing the fingerling production phase. I even have an assigned area for that,” says Urizzi.
In a short time, SJ Fish has become a reference. In February, for example, Urizzi received students from the State University of Maringá (UEM) for a field day. Additionally, he often opens his doors to other producers brought by the Rural Development Institute of Paraná (IDR-Paraná), who are interested in learning more about the biofloc system.
“I like challenges. And to succeed, specialization and planning are necessary. Before starting, I put everything on paper and sought knowledge to improve. And we must never stop evolving,” concludes Urizzi.