The scope in agriculture and fisheries has increased in the past few years and fisheries studies is booming the most, said the VC
India has been progressing in terms of research and expanding its horizon of education exponentially for the last couple of years and the Tamil Nadu Dr J Jayalalithaa Fisheries University (TNJFU) at Nagapattinam is proof of that. In the last 30 months, TNJFU has become the fisheries university with the maximum number of colleges under it, offering the most number of courses, and has built a 171-strong faculty.
TNJFU is the largest fisheries university that provides undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD courses in the field and the varsity has added 13 courses in the past two years — after Dr S Felix took charge as the Vice-Chancellor. The primary aim of the institution is to increase the enrollment rate, said Dr Felix. "India has an enrollment rate of 15 per cent which is very low when you compare it to other countries — while the USA and other developed countries maintain a ratio of more than 85 per cent, countries like Brazil too have an enrollment rate of 45 per cent. We need to double our number," said the VC. "Even though institutions teaching or doing research on agriculture are in abundance, there are only two fisheries universities in India — one in Kochi and the other, TNJFU. And this year we have come first in ranking among all the State Agriculture Universities (SAU) in the state," he added. The scope in agriculture and fisheries has increased in the past few years and fisheries is booming the most, said Dr Felix. "Courses pertaining to fisheries had the highest Cumulative Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) this year. We have also diversified, keeping the target population in mind. If someone wants to take up Fisheries Sciences but does not have a score as high to clear the cut-off, we have several other courses that they can opt for in the field which require a much lower cut-off," explained the professor. "We have put in several proposals to the Centre but they do not have the budget to back up our proposals. We, the VCs of the SAUs across the country, meet every few months to discuss what's happening in the field globally as well as in our respective universities. If some scheme or course is doing well in a university, we try to discuss how we can integrate or adopt it. That's where I picked up the idea of self-financed courses," he added.
The university has introduced a programme on deep-sea fishing to help the fishermen so that they do not have to go anywhere near Sri Lanka and thus, can avoid any political or international issues "Indian fishermen still use trawling to fish. This not only leads them to international waters but also destroys marine life. The government has introduced the deep-sea fishing technique under which the fishermen can fish deeper down without affecting the marine life adversely," said Dr Felix, "And this will be scientifically managed. The new deep-sea fishing vessels will have communication and navigation equipment and I saw this as a sector we can explore. We have introduced a BTech Nautical Technologies programme at our college in Thoothukudi. Once students complete the four-year course, they can directly come into deep-sea fishing operations."
TNJFU is working on technologies to make zero-water or minimal-water ecosystems a viable future. "Aquaculture is where all the research is concentrated right now. We have a facility in Madhavaram. We have been working on various technologies to figure out ways to harvest in much smaller spaces — what can be harvested in a 5-acre plot by traditional methods can be harvested in a tank the size of an average room," he explained. "We are the only SAU in the country who has been given the task to popularise one of our technologies across the country — Biofloc. This is a new technology adopted in aquaculture. This is a micro-well based aquaculture system. Specific heterotrophic bacteria are produced on the farm and the fish production will increase ten times or more. We have travelled across the country to popularise this method and farmers are using it. We keep in touch with them over Skype and track their progress," he added. But what are the opportunities when you graduate? "Our graduates can pursue a career in teaching, research and now, management as well. We have diversified and now have business administration courses as well. All the positions in the Fisheries department have to be filled up by our graduates — that's by government order. They can also become Agricultural Research Scientists and get into fisheries institutes," said the VC. There are ample opportunities in the Fisheries department and it is expanding every day and Dr Felix is of the opinion that there should be at least five more fisheries universities across the country over the next few years.