FISHY: A Computer Programme for US Farmed Catfish Production Management

Lucy Towers
22 September 2014, at 1:00am

FISHY was first developed in 1980. It was written in Basic and ran on Radio Shack TRS-80 computers. Lee Fouch (an MSU agricultural economics and computer science graduate) and I wrote the initial version, with heavy assistance by agricultural economics professor John Waldrop, writes Dr Wallace Killcreas, Agricultural Economics Professor Emeritus, Mississippi State University.

Since then, I have redesigned, rewritten, and republished FISHY many times to adapt to the needs of the US farm-raised catfish industry, as well as to the significant technological advances over the years. New bulletins and supporting computer programmes were developed in 1985 (IBM PC and compatibles), 1992, 1995 (written in Clipper, a FoxBase competitor), and 2002 (written in Windows Sensitive Visual FoxPro, the current FISHY language).

The 2002 FISHY Bulletin is frequently referenced in this document. This 2014 bulletin was written to compile 12 years of FISHY improvements in one document. It is written in first person for greater readability.

During the early years of FISHY development, some of the pioneers in the US farm-raised catfish industry helped us to get it right. They included Billy McKinney, one of the very first catfish farmers; Indianola brothers Kay and Seymour Johnson, who contributed many ideas to FISHY development; Tommy Taylor, an MSU Extension Service fish pathologist from Belzoni, who contributed many ideas and acted as a sounding board for early versions of FISHY development; and Keith King, chief financial officer for Dillard and Company in Leland, who was an "idea man" for the 2002 version of FISHY.

FISHY has greatly benefited from Jim Steeby, retired MSU Extension aquaculture specialist from Belzoni, who contributed fish data and organized many FISHY workshops over the years; Terry Hanson, currently a professor and Extension specialist in aquaculture at Auburn University, who was a great help in producing the 2002 version of FISHY; and Gregory Whitis, Alabama Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist, who has been instrumental in introducing FISHY to Alabama fish farmers and who has contributed much data to FISHY development, especially with hybrid catfish; and Debbie Dees from Harvest Select, who has been most helpful in recent years as we have attempted to make FISHY better. Catfish feeding information, especially in the Mississippi Delta, came from Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 181.

Currently, around 15 fish farms are using FISHY, accounting for around 16,000 water acres. FISHY has been used to aid in managing as many as 50 fish farms and around 36,000 water acres each year. Over the years, FISHY usage has decreased with the farm-raised catfish industry, losing producers and acres between 2008 and 2013 at about the same rate as the industry lost them.

In the early years (1980–85), Extension verification trials did more than simply validate FISHY. The results were compared to results from catfish feeding trials done by Tommy Taylor, Ed Robinson, Meng Li, Jim Steeby, and others. Additionally, FISHY background (growth) production data is designed to be adjusted on the farm, and FISHY production parameters were greatly enhanced by data contributions from operations such as Eden Fisheries (Rodney Henderson), Kay and Seymour Johnson, Dillard and Company, Tackett Fish Farms, and Harvest Select.

Whitis and I conducted ground truth work for hybrids on 3 years of production data from an outstanding small hybrid operation (around 60 acres) in west Alabama. We developed a hybrid feeding schedule that was so optimistic that we reduced the numbers a little. This producer provided extra oxygen for his fish, which could have contributed to the excellent production results from the hybrids.

Critical evaluation of this manuscript was ably accomplished by Gregory Whitis; Terry Hanson; Debbie Dees; Ken Hood of the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics; Randy Hollingsworth, fish farmer and FISHY user, Hollingsworth Farms Inc.; and April Nester, FISHY user, Tackett Fish Farms. I offer my most sincere thanks to all of you for a job well done.

In the early years, FISHY was distributed without cost by MSU. I "officially" retired in 2002. MSU, Catfish Farmers of America, and I then made an agreement to continue to enhance and distribute FISHY, for a fee. Currently, the cost of FISHY is based on producer water acres. Pricing starts at $1 per acre per year. The floor is $80 (if you own 80 acres or less, you pay $80). Larger acreage fish farms pay less than $1 per water acre ($1/ acre up to 500 acres; 50 cents per acre from 500 to 3,000 acres; and 25 cents per acre for more than 3,000 acres). The ceiling is $1,360 per year.

FISHY is mainly supported by site license sales. Revenues go to me and to MSU. CFA provides oversight and FISHY bookkeeping. The MSU Department of Agricultural Economics provides office space and secretarial support, and the MSU Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer provides oversight and payroll support. I am most grateful for CFA and MSU continuing to support FISHY during the 12 years since I retired.

FISHY will only run on Windows-sensitive computers. It has been tested on Windows 7/8 and XP. It will probably run on the new Mac that is Windows-compatible.

If you purchase FISHY for your operation, you will receive a CD, a bulletin, and the latest FISHY information, as part of a site license for one fish farm (installed on up to three computers) for 1 year from the date of purchase.

You will also be able to talk directly to me whenever you need help during that year at no extra cost. 

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

September 2014