The interest passed on to my father, and in turn on to me; my early fish memories being as a 5yr old boy breeding Siamese Fighters. This was surely the start of my passion for fish keeping and in particular, fish breeding. I bred every fish I kept since I was 5 years old. Then as an adult with a young family, we inherited a pond through a house move and I started keeping koi carp. It was only a matter of time before I tackled breeding koi.
The actual breeding process for koi is not as difficult as it is for Siamese Fighting fish. But with the Siamese Fighters I used to breed, most of the babies end up very pretty and similar to the parents. Koi do not breed true. So, breeding koi that also look great and that you'd want in your pond is a huge challenge. This is especially the case for the most patterned varieties. At the time, I had a large day job and always kept up with hobbies to help maintain a life balance. Sensing a challenge with the koi, I took on breeding Kohaku .. as they are the no. 1 variety in koi’s ‘Go Sanke’, (the ‘top 3’ varieties), and the most heavily competed category on the show circuit. The koi shows being a way for me to benchmark the quality of the koi I was producing against the toughest competition. And it was generally thought to be impossible outside of the Japanese koi farms to breed a champion level koi. Therefore, a prime target for a life challenge, so that's exactly what I took on!
It took years to develop our first Kohaku brood set pairing that worked well enough to produce koi that won awards at koi shows. We started to win more than just placings and our first Baby Champion beat 80 koi to win at the South Of England koi show in 2015.
We actually had 2 koi place in the top 3 out of those 80 koi at that show, and across the kohaku's competing in the 25-45cm sizes, we took 5 of the top 6 awards. The consistency of the quality in our kohaku now being independently recognised against tough competition in this way started to draw significant attention.
The following year, I achieved what was thought to be unachievable for a back garden hobbyist breeder. We won baby champion at the All England Show in 2016 with a stunning Ippon Hi Kohaku.
Winning that major award at the most prestigious show in the UK was the culmination of several champion awards at regional level shows won during 2014-16 with other Kohaku's produced from the same brood set. A huge life achievement, and recognised internationally with features in koi press around the world.
With the objective complete, I started to think about what challenge to take on next. The idea of an
'Escape to the Country' (The well-known TV show haven't been in touch yet though) style of business was always in our minds as a possible venture at some point in our lives, and with more and more people contacting us about our Kohaku, this seemed a possibility.
It wasn't an easy decision because as difficult as the hobby challenge had been, expanding to a commercial scale koi farm was another very difficult thing and would also take significant financial investment. And the day job that I'd spent much of my career working hard towards was enjoyable, and not something to let go easily.
We decided to take the risk, and the decision was made that Amanda and I would develop Byer Koi Farm together.
Building a commercial scale fish farm has been even more difficult than winning those earlier awards as a hobbyist! The cost and time involved has been huge. The expansion took 5 years and I maintained my large day job to help expand our facilities more quickly whilst also running the enlarged koi farm. Amanda picking up a new aquaculture career and manning the phones and seeing customers.
Meeting our amazing customers has been one of the most enjoyable aspects. They have taught us so much about how people enjoy koi and koi ponds. They have also helped to tailor our business objectives. We were regularly asked to take on other varieties and do for those what we'd done on Kohaku. Our customers are very important to us, and we do listen.
By expanding the farm we have been able to continue to develop our Kohaku lines as well as take on additional varieties and we're enjoying the process of finding new optimised brood set pairings for lots of different varieties from Showa to Ogons, doitsu metallics and many other varieties in between. And our customers are loving the wider range with some of these new varieties starting to become as sought after as our Kohaku's. Our Showa's are a great example. They've been a toughie to crack and after 3 years and testing 5 different brood set combinations, we finally hit on two pairings that work really well. And our Ogons are extremely shiny and bright metallic koi that we call our 'Shooting Stars'.
Our investment in a 105cm Chagoi female we call 'Oakly' is an example of our intent. Breeding from very special and large Japanese Koi like this helps to maintain and further develop the quality of the koi we produce.
(Examples of the chagoi we are producing from our Oakly chagoi line)
The beating heart at Byer Koi Farm is our keystone Kohaku range where we continue to push the boundaries in colour quality, pattern and growth potential. The end result, our customers have been winning even more champion awards with our Kohaku's, and not just from that original Kohaku line, but also from 3 further optimised Kohaku lines too. In 2020 we had our first cover star; an amazing 'Map of England' pattern style Kohaku winning the top award at a club show and featuring on the front of 'Koi Net' magazine, issue 30. This koi beat all the other Kohaku's in the competition, across all the sizes. And also all the koi from the other Go-Sanke (top 3) varieties too.
This consistent champion award winning quality, the extremely high quality and jumbo size of our Japanese koi brood stock all sourced from Japan, and in particular the special combinations that we pair our brood fish each taking years to develop, underpins the consistent award winning quality in the koi we produce. When you add that to our continued push towards maintaining the highest customer satisfaction, you get the essence of what makes Byer Koi Farm so special.
Our hobbyist roots gives us a unique perspective and influences how we go about operating in the koi trade. Drawing from our own koi buying experiences during that period, and also the experience gained from running our local koi club as chairman for 10 years; we've seen what works well, and what can cause dissatisfaction. That gives us an advantage in understanding how to engage with our customers.
It's very important to us that our customers enjoy their experience from our koi. Whether that be in the colour, the pattern or sheer growth from the koi they purchase; understanding the provenance of a koi they are interested in - and receiving that information directly from the husband and wife team that bred that koi. Or to access our deep experience in koi husbandry and making ponds work well to inform their own koi keeping approach, adding to their enjoyment of the hobby and also their friends and families too.
We also run annual competitions and hundreds of customers have now taken part in those and they are well worth watching out for. They always have a common theme, which is to take a spawning that has performed particularly well and to offer our customers the opportunity to buy koi from that spawning.
We understand the provenance of all the koi we sell, because we bred them. So, whether a customer is interested in a koi for showing, a fantastic individual specimen or a mix of koi to brighten their pond, we are always happy to spend time to help them pick the right koi from our spawnings that has the traits they will most value and enjoy.
At the beginning of my koi breeding project as a hobbyist, I took on a challenge thought to be unachievable to strive for a personal life goal and also to increase interest in koi bred in the UK. Pushing the boundaries is in our DNA, and now with Byer Koi Farm being a leading UK koi farm consistently producing champion winning koi, we are elevating the quality and perception of UK bred koi and driving the industry forwards.
Thank you to all our customers and our suppliers for your continued interest and support in Byer Koi Farm.
Adam Byer, Koi Farmer