The flashing neon advertising signs and crowded crosswalks of Tokyo may not resemble the slow suburban settlement of Maseru — the capital of the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa.
But the two countries are now being linked by an unlikely dish: trout.
Thanks to Highlands Trout, and their operation 2,200m above sea level in the Maluti Mountains, supermarket shoppers in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo can now get their seafood fix from the landlocked African nation.
“Lesotho provide(s) ideal, pristine environmental conditions for the farming of large trout,” explains Fred Formanek, managing partner of Advance Africa Management Services, who has developed the Highlands Trout project since 2009. “Water temperatures are close to ideal [for trout] for most of the year due to the altitude.”
Production started in 2012 with a haul of 500 tonnes of trout in the first year. During the current financial year, the company aims to produce three-times that amount.
While the business says the Japan-bound fish are stuck on a ship for four weeks, executives insist the added logistics — and extra costs — are worth it. “The price premium that we currently receive… makes up for any additional logistics costs,” says Formanek.
The production process starts with the fish arriving in Lesotho from Denmark as eggs. They are then stored in temperature-controlled pens until they become “fingerlings” weighing around 10g. The baby fish are so fragile at this stage that the water quality is monitored regularly.