How did AKDN get involved in trout farming in Pakistan? It all began, in May 2019, when Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), a division of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), launched a company by the name of Allied Ventures Limited (AVL) to spearhead agricultural projects.
When members of IPS visited Gilgit-Baltistan in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out across the country, they discovered a trout farm in Gilgit. They also discovered that rainbow trout bred in natural glacier water are classified as premium quality fish due to the fresh and unpolluted nature of the water source.
The potential was there, but upon researching the issue, it was discovered that although the quality of fish produced in Gilgit could contribute to uplifting the local economy, the trout market in Gilgit-Baltistan was relatively small and faced unforeseen hurdles. Residents could not afford the expensive trout. And with tourism severely impacted by the pandemic in 2020, local trout farmers faced challenges in selling their produce.
But AVL saw an opportunity. What about freezing it and offering it up in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi? The task was to create a processing facility that could also freeze trout. AVL, therefore, established a trout processing factory in Gahkuch, Gilgit-Baltistan – the first of its kind in Pakistan that meets the highest European standards and HACCP (Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Point) guidelines.
Dispatched from the fish farm in an icebox, the trout arrives at the factory, where it undergoes rigorous quality checks, including being blast frozen at a temperature of -35 degrees Celsius, before being packaged. This retains nutritional qualities and increases the shelf-life of the fish from seven months to an astounding 12 months. The trout are then dispatched down the country in refrigerated trucks with controlled temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius.
AVL successfully acquired three cold storage facilities to aid this new market, now located in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The company ensures peak quality of the trout by keeping strict quality control in place at the factory and storage facility. Despite being established amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, all required standard operating procedures are followed throughout the process to ensure the good health and safety of workers and the customers
As a result, approximately 80 farms, close to AVL’s Trout Farm in Gilgit, benefit from aquaculture knowledge sharing and future demand creation for processed trout.
AVL sees other such success stories. By empowering farmers through agricultural assistance, AVL (and IPS, AKFED and AKDN) helps improve yields, provides enterprise development, employable skills, natural resource management and financial security – all the means for farmers to become self-reliant.