A 28-year-old lecturer of the Department of Mechatronics and Systems Engineering at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Faisal Sani Bala, has invented a complex yet simple facility that would revolutionarise fish farming in the country.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday in Bauchi, during the19th-22nd convocation ceremony of ATBU yesterday, where the facility was displayed, Bala who is an alumnus of the University of East London, where he studied Electrical Electronic Engineering and specialised in Embedded Systems, with bias towards solving local problems in agriculture, said he was motivated to come up with the invention, which is his idea, because of the challenges he faced with his personal involvement in fish farming, and decided to try it out when he competed in an international innovation competition.
“I conceived the idea as a result the challenges I faced as a fish farmer which coincided with an advert I saw online by a company in the US on innovation competition. I applied and sent my proposal for the competition. What I wanted to do was to solve the problem I encountered on the farm.
“That was how it all started. I conceptualised the solution and came up with a device that is going to serve and ameliorate the problems local farmers face in their operations. That was in 2014 when I participated in the competition in which I came 2nd,” he narrated.
He further stated that in the course of coming up with the first prototype, he faced huge funding challenge and that apart from personal funds; he relied on support from his father which was inadequate. He added at a time, he approached the government and some private individuals for funding and also wrote several proposals but none of them pulled through successfully.
“The prototype you are seeing now was funded by ATBU so this one belongs to the school because it was produced for convocation exhibition,” the lecturer said.
Bala further pointed out that device needs constant research so that it can be further improved, pointing out that it is highly viable for commercialisation and “now that people are more technology friendly, it is a very simple system for people to use particularly for graduates.”
He encouraged graduates to key into the opportunity and be in involved in farming as there is a lot to gain.
“Young people particularly graduates, can really appreciate it as something they can identify with because it is a technology-friendly innovation and quite trendy. People will be always be proud to farm as long as it is this kind of hi-tech farming.
“Whenever you talk to people about farming, their thinking is the village setting that doesn’t augur well for them. But with this kind of system you can farm anywhere and anytime.”
He urged upcoming inventors to look inwards and not to be dazzled by external influence and bear in mind that no one will come from far away China, US or anywhere in the world to solve our problems.
“We are the ones to solve our problems, so we should look into the problems and come up with solutions. We have to think outside the box. The solution lies very close to us but if you don’t seek it you will never get it,” he emphasised.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that the device, an automated fish farming facility, is designed to help people, especially teeming unemployed youth who are reluctant to venture into farming the old fashioned way.
The fish farming facility which has an android application to enable the monitoring of the pond, using a cell phone, also comprises of dedicated computers, tank, solar power generation and complex water treatment facilities among others, and is fit with mechanism that would make it possible to engage in fish farming all year round, notwithstanding climatic changes.
It is also solar energy powered, automated with less human involvement, environmentally friendly, does not discharge dirty water and has a very high stocking density compared to the conventional system and also has the capacity to accommodate large amount of fish per meter cube of water.
According to him, “The system uses solar and you can stock as many fish without any hitches. The system is very clean, it is an effective system and you stock more fish in this farming system than any conventional system. It can keep your fish the whole year round. You don’t have to bother your neighbours with discharging of water as the water gets recycled and comes clean. It filters the water continuously and it also looks at the climate for oxygen and other necessary parameters for the fish to thrive.”
Meanwhile, during the convocation ceremony, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented the low ranking of the country’s universities. Represented by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), by Prof. Julius Okojie, Buhari said it was worrisome that no Nigerian university was quoted among the top 100 universities in the world.
“We rank below a thousand. If we do not aspire to be among the world class universities, we cannot boast of a robust system capable of making the country among the top economies of the world.
“We have abundance of talents who excel elsewhere but appear incapacitated at home. This is unacceptable. Whatever makes our abundant talents fail at home and excel abroad must be identified and neutralised for our benefit and that of our future generation,’’ Buhari said. The president fingered incessant strikes by teachers as one of the major bottlenecks to the progress of the country’s university system.
“The repercussions of strike usually retard the smooth running of academic activities with heavy negative consequences,” he said, and called on the state governments to support and encourage universities situated in their states because they were responsible for harnessing local talents and promotion of local innovations.
Also, the university Chancellor, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe, urged the federal government to expand the capacities of the universities to accommodate more students.
The chancellor, who is also the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, said “on our campuses, we have an increasing growth in number of students but every year, we admit less than the total number of applicants who qualified. The admission capacity for all our universities is far below the quantum of youth passing their entry examinations.
“Very few parents can afford to send their children to private universities, hence the abundant talents who find themselves unable to attain university education. I therefore urge stakeholders to urgently find both short and long term solutions to this growing problem.”
Oba Adejugbe who is the new chancellor, assured the federal and state government of his determination to employ all apparatus in discharging his responsibilities to the university in order to achieve development in the education sector.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Saminu Ibrahim, in his address, disclosed that the institution was graduating a total of 8,127 students, a breakdown of which shows 845 diploma, 5,577 first degrees, 1,620 PGD/Masters and 85 Ph.Ds.
“Out of the 5,577 first degree graduants, 32 obtained first class.
1,203 got second class upper, 2,702 obtained second class lower while 1,481 got third class and 136 obtained pass,” he said.
Ibrahim said that the institution had recorded a lot of achievements despite numerous challenges, adding that already, a five-year strategic plan for the university had been produced to help chart a strategic direction for the University.
“We are also improving the quality of our staff to meet standard requirements. Within this period, over 40 academic staff members have been sent to acquire their PhD degrees across the globe,” he added.