Dr Arun Padiyar: Ushering in 'Milkfish' revolution

Dr Arun Padiyar: Ushering in 'Milkfish' revolution

Florine Roche
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore

Mangalore, Aug 7: A few days ago, people could buy a new variety of fish called “Milkfish” in one of the malls of Mangalore city. As per the British Indian Government Documents (Gazetteer of India), this was the favorite fish of Tippu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore and he used to source it from Kundapur. This fish which is new to the markets of Mangalore was under test marketing phase and was sold here to assess the market reaction of this new member in the fish faculty. Though the market reaction in Dakshina Kannada is yet to be assessed, Dr Arun Padiyar, aquaculture specialist and the brain behind the farming of Milkfish here, says he has received excellent feedback and encouraging response from Karnataka, Goa, Andhra, Kerala and North Eastern states of India where the fish has found regular and repeat buyers.

Being a coastal area fish forms the staple diet of most people of undivided Dakshina Kannada district. But most middle class and lower middle class families can afford to have only sardines or mackerels with an occasional exception of surmai (seerfish), ladyfish or pomfret in their menu. Skyrocketing prices of marine fish is often a hindrance for people to experiment with a variety of fish available here and more often than not the quality of the marine fish is uncertain. A hundred rupee note these days can buy only sardines and mackerels sufficient for a day’s need of a nuclear family.

Dr Arun Padiyar with a fish doll of the world famous Atlantic Salmon, in Norway

Encouraging response

Now that the response from market is encouraging things are changing and for the better and soon there is a possibility that our fish markets will be flooded with milkfish which is affordable, tasty which can also fulfill the edacity for a big fish. Milkfish can really guarantee value for money and also meet the nutritional requirements of the people if made available in abundance and all through the year. “Milkfish” also locally known as ‘flower fish’ or ‘poomeen ’ is being cultivated in a trial basis and Padiyar who has been working on it in cooperation with the Fisheries College, Mangalore, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi, fish farmer cooperatives and private sector fish feed companies for the last three years had put it for test marketing. As the market response has been cheering the fish would be cultivated in a large scale in the near future in Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Padiyar and his team of farmers, traders and scientists are gearing up for the challenge ahead.

“Milkfish has great potential to provide additional livelihood and increased sustainable food production opportunities to people in the coastal areas and also for generating foreign exchange through its export. The immediate need is to standardize and promote the farming technology and produce massive quantities of fish seeds by establishing hatcheries in India”, says Dr Padiyar. This young and enterprising consulting aquaculture specialist and aquaculture entrepreneur, hailing from Panemangalore, in Dakshina Kannada, had therefore, taken up milkfish farming on experimental basis in the coasts of Karnataka and Andhra and his experiment is yielding good results.

He says that he chose milkfish farming because “it is easy to cultivate, is disease resistant, high yielding, low cost, low risk with a crop period of 3 months and upwards depending on market needs. Each fish can grow up to one kg size within 8-10 months period which is what makes it quite an endearing option for farmers. Also, it is widely adaptable to either seawater or fresh water and is capable of catering to pan-Indian taste buds of people. Above all it is highly sustainable, depends on vegetable-based feed and has high feed conversion efficiency.

This means there is going to be a new revolution in aquaculture with ‘Milkfish”, to provide sustainable and affordable fish to the people. For the last few years he has been working silently and with a dogged commitment to develop low and medium-value farmed fish value-chain in India with the active support of various institutes, retailers and contract farmers. His experiment was started in Kundapur and Andra Pradesh in a 50 acre aquafarm.

Irresistible option

In response to the market needs Dr Padiyar and his team of farmers are now going ahead for cultivating milk fish on a large scale. By January next year the fish market and malls will be flooded with “milkfish” to give the people an option to go in for a large, tasty and reasonably priced fish. If this happens, it would go a long way in providing “food for all”. It would also improve the quality of their life by providing nutrition, additional livelihood and would alleviate the crisis in food production lurking at us.

Padiyar did his masters in Fisheries Science from College of Fisheries in Mangalore. He followed it up with a Ph.D in Aquaculture from Deakin University in Australia. Planning and implementing fisheries and aquaculture programmes, facilitating fish farmer cooperatives and international seafood trade issues, has been his forte. His in-depth knowledge about giving a fillip to rural livelihoods keeps him in good stead both as an aquaculture specialist and as an entrepreneur.

He was greatly enriched by the experience he had between 2005 and 2010 where he had the opportunity to lead post-Tsunami and earthquake rehabilitation and development programmes of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UNO and International Finance Corporation of the World Bank group in Indonesia as Chief Technical Officer (Fisheries and Aquaculture). It was during his stint in Indonesia he noticed that people in Indonesia and other South East Asian countries simply loved this milkfish. He found out that the fish was available at affordable rates all through the season and was sustainable because they were farming this fish in these countries.

Milkfish which derived its name due to its milk-white belly is mostly found in Pacific and Indonesian oceans and to some extent in the Indian Ocean including Indian coastal waters. But Padiyar points out that the stock levels of the fish is so low it is not possible to harvest it in plenty in the wild (sea) and that is why there is scope for farming it. “The fish can tolerate high variation in salinity thus making it very sturdy, is good for children as it contains high omega 3 fatty acids, essential minerals such as Calcium, Selenium and Iron and therefore is highly nutritious”, he avers.

He further says that it is a quite a challenging venture for him in terms of investment and hard work. “I cannot deviate from my focus. My purpose is to provide sustainable fish to the people at Rs. 100-200 a kilo which is affordable and have invested my savings in building a world-class fish breeding company in India. It takes long time to achieve the desired results and success. I believe that what I do should contribute to the overall development of the society”.

Assorted benefits

The benefits of cultivating ‘milkfish’ are manifold – it is affordable, as compared to the high price of marine fish, supply is sustainable from fish farms. The freshness of the marine fish is relatively poor due to prolonged fishing period and poor post-harvest fish handling practices where as the freshness of farm fish will be good due to the post harvest care taken. Since ours is an agrarian hub the cost of production will be low and this benefit would ultimately go to the consumer.

Until now he wasn’t quite sure about the success of his venture because it was a gamble and hence he was not confident enough to encourage his contract farmers to take to fish farming. But the positive market response has spurred him and has given him the confidence. Now he has asked the farmers to go ahead with the farming as he is confident of marketing their product and equally confident of giving them technical advice.

Crisis makes way for gain

Becoming an entrepreneur was the result of the mid-life crises Padiyar went through. He wanted to do something innovative and challenging in his own field. Aqua farming he undertook is gamble considering the huge investment involved due to the long gestation period. The risk factor was high and he had put in more than three years of hard labour and now the gamble has paid off. He says the support of his family was an essential feature of his taking such a huge risk in his mid 30’s. “My wife Poonam is aware of what I was doing and that is important. I have her complete support and encouragement which has played a crucial role in my giving full attention to a business venture of this kind”, he confides.

India is now caught in a quagmire in its efforts to pass the National Food Security Bill to ensure food and nutritional security to people who don’t have access to food at subsidized rates. But providing sufficient food on a consistent basis is a challenge which our government alone cannot handle without the support and cooperation of organizations and private individuals. Incidentally, there is no dearth of individuals in our country who are enterprising and concerned about providing food for all and Dr Arun Padiyar belongs to the rare breed of people who think the larger interest of the society.


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Comment on this article

  • Baiju.M.D, Kerala/Ernakulam

    Mon, Oct 24 2016

    Dr Arun, I am interested in fish farming, would like to meet you.Is it possible. CAN U GET YOUR CONTACHT NUMBER OFFICE OR PERSONAL

    DisAgree Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Adelene , Singapore

    Mon, Nov 23 2015

    Hi Dr Arun, How can I get hold of you? Do you have contact number?

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Kumar, Hejmadi

    Fri, Jun 17 2016

    Dr Arun, I am interested in fish farming, would like to meet you.Is it possible.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Bosco Coelho, Goa India

    Tue, Mar 31 2015

    i would like to where i could get the fish roe if i go for this fish breeding , i highly appreciate if you could pen me ,
    thanks .. Bosco..

    DisAgree [1] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse


    Sun, Dec 14 2014

    Dear Sir,
    It is a great news for our local farmers, Our agri paddy farmers are facing lot of problem to cultivate the paddy . So this may become alternate sustaibable income to them. Please let me know how to get the fingerlings of milk fish from you, How much it cost , how to transport, At what salinity it can grow. We are doing prawn culture and we want to culture the milk fish in our reservoir to control the organic. Would you recommend us to do the culture in our reservoir. Please send the details to my mail

    Thanking You,
    Farm Manager,
    094434 68241

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Suardika, Indonesia

    Mon, Oct 06 2014

    Dear Dr Arin Padiyar,
    I have hatchery produce about 500m milkfish fry ( 21 days old ) every year if you need our product please let me know.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Kumar, Hejmadi

    Fri, Jun 17 2016

    Hi, Are you in Facebook? send me your contact please

    DisAgree [1] Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Rajesh Shetty, Aikala/dubai

    Sun, Jul 27 2014

    Dear Dr Padiyar would like to know whether the species farmed by you are the same as from Philippines.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mohamed Badeeu, Maldives

    Sun, May 11 2014

    I have no comment for this article. But I would like to contact you and request your mail address and also telephone contact numbers please.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse


    Thu, Aug 15 2013

    dear doc arun..i am second batch b.f.sc 1974 and buyers agent for exports since long..pls advise export oppurtunities on email..congrats on this good venture..

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • merwin, heroor

    Sat, Jun 14 2014

    Hi Subhash,
    Please do let me know about export options. You can contact me at merwinchamp@gmail.com.

    DisAgree Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Santhosh Shetty, Kundapur

    Wed, Aug 14 2013

    Dear Mr. Arun, I would like to congratulate you for your efforts and success. I am courrently residing in bangalore and I want to know if this fish is available in Bangalore by any chance.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • joseph, kundapura, vikhroli - mumbai

    Tue, Aug 13 2013

    Last december have seen this phoola mali available in reasonable quantity at fish shops near Kundapura santhe market on highway side. One can try from here for taste and feedback.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mrs. AF D'Souza, Kundapur/Mumbai.,

    Tue, Aug 13 2013

    This fish is known as foola mali or humeen in kodi/kundapura. There is one pond or small lake near mr.menezes house in Halealve. Many years back on my visit to halealve we happened to get this fish from that lake. My father told to me that humeen can cure TB/Asthama. Since then I was trying to buy this fish. Now I am very happy to read about it. Thanks Dr. Padiyar and God Bless your efforts. During my next visit to Mangalore I want to buy and enjoy this milkfish/humeen in plenty.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Nagesh, India

    Fri, Aug 09 2013

    Excellent and laudable work..Hats off to Dr. Arun for his vision and effort!!

    DisAgree [2] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • malathi, Panemangalore

    Fri, Aug 09 2013

    Dear Arun
    Congrats and happy to see u in daiji please do this experience in our town panemangalore also

    DisAgree [2] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Raghavendra Hegde, Mangalore

    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    Good Going.... All the Best !!! :)

    DisAgree [2] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • baliga fishnets, udupi

    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    congrats on your achievement from all of us. baliga

    DisAgree [2] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Arun Padiyar, Mangalore

    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    Hello Daiji Gulf and South-East Asian Friends, I request you to try milkfish (whole or bone-less) from gulf markets and give your frank feedback to me at arunpadiyar@gmail.com or 919440916428. This will help me a lot in planning for the future in India. Thank you in advance.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dr. Gusheinzed Waikhom, Imphal, Manipur

    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    Dr. Arun Padiyar’s effort and contribution towards sustainable aquaculture through species diversification is highly commendable. He is the living example of the very objective of the Agriculture and allied disciplines education system: “To produce job providers rather than (educated) job seekers”. I was wondering of the abundant availability of Milk fish in the markets of Manipur, which people like so much and goes by the local name “AHILA” and are sold @Rs.120-140/kg. It’s altogether a different taste for the people of Manipur who are accustomed with the putrid Rohu from Andhra sold at the same price. I wish more fisheries graduates will follow the footsteps of Dr. Arun and bring Blue Revolution and Nutritional Security to India and Northeastern states of India in particular.

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Arun Padiyar, Mangalore

    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    Dr. Waikhom, please let me know your contact details. I would like to know more on your milkfish experience in Mesmarizing Manipur. thanks

    DisAgree Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse


    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    Very informative article regarding fish. The days have gone to eat quality fishes like Angel, Pomprets, ladyfish Raons etc. They were cheap previously and the cost of such fishes gone high. Now only mackerals, sardines, madmal etc are somewhat cheap. People cant afford buy quality fishes now. By the by, I want to have its local name whether its solman shewto species? Why this milkfish is not available in the market?

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ravi Suvarna, Kundapur

    Fri, Aug 09 2013

    It is exported to France, Japan & Germany. Every month 3 refrigerated containers leave Mangalore.

    DisAgree Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • U.J.Kedarnath, Mangalore

    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    At one time fish used to be the cheap source of animal protein compared to mutton and chicken.But the times have changed. With the diesel prices soaring every now and then and marine fishing becoming quite costly , the fish is already out of reach for common man. In this situation the efforts of Dr Arun Padiyar needs to be enocuraged as it is going to offer an alternative.
    Congratulations for the good work and wishing you all the best.

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • rama bangera, Brahmavar/Norway

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    Ouch, i took that salmon photo :P. Its very nice article and if possible try to publish the same in National news paper (English version) as well as Kannada news paper. It will be a success in few years.

    DisAgree Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • John D'Silva, Mangalore

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    Thanks Mr.Arun Padiyar.Your ideas will help lot of people in costal region.Having watched closely prawn farming in DK district I feel investers are prone to losses due to nonscientific methods.Peolple of your calibre can advice to minimize the errors.River beds near Hangarkatta,Airody,Sasthan and Barkur having good potential for fish farming.People scared of losses because there is lack of genuine advicers.Sir please popularize fish farming in our district.Fish contain very low level of cholesterol rich in omega-3 fatty acid a vital neutrient to our body.Wishing you every success.

    DisAgree Agree [20] Reply Report Abuse

  • thomas, india

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    Congratulations Arun,
    Great show, India needs dynamic entrepreneurs like you.
    Please revolutionise this field - use the abundance land and water masses in our region.
    educate the farmers and estate owners owning Ware bodies.
    your concept of providing cheap and easily digestible protein is a great concept-great thought and great Effort- hats off to you.
    Hope even the other Fisheries graduates will be inspired to take up projects like yours to get abundant yield and be surplus in fish production.
    and even export ,earn money.
    Education is importance and establish Nursery and distribute the fingerlings -babies -grow them in PILICULA.
    There should be a dedicated channel on TV
    to educate -promote - these products-projects- in fish farming- agriculture - etc.
    Good luck.
    We should also promote sushi - providing fresh or live protein like japanese do, by establishing the cold chain network.

    DisAgree Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • D M D' Souza, Panemangalore

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    Congrats Arun,
    Happy to see you on Daiji.
    You had a vision from your college days, when all wanted to pursue Engineering & Medicine, you opted for fisheries though you got merit seat in the above.
    You took decisions against all odds & you succeeded in many ways.
    My Best Wishes will always be there in each & every step you take, as every successful person faces more failures & pain before he succeeds, where his efforts bear fruit benefiting all in the end.

    DisAgree [9] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

  • arun, udupi

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    good idea.in gulf countries its a famous fish. filipinos like it very much,calling "bangoos".tastes better when it was fried or grilled.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • Glen Mendonca, Tallur/Dubai

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    In Kundapur we call it foola mali, in our childhood we used to catch lot, it has lots of bones but very tasty one.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangalore

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    Really a great news that Dr.Arun Padiyar making possitve effort in ushering Milkfish revolution.I wish him all the best and grand success in his new venture.It is a tasty fish and all fish eaters will like this on tasting it.Thanq.

    DisAgree [4] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Guru Baliga, Mangalore

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    I appreciate Dr. Arun Padiyar's Vision for the Food Security of the Country. At such young age he could see this vision and work towards it is Great.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [26] Reply Report Abuse

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