IN 1997 WE VISITED a unique tilapia farm up in the mountain of Tarlac – the Peter Mountain Fish Farm managed by Pedro Manese with his son Paul, 20-year-old then, who was a fisheries graduate from the Central Luzon State University.
NO NATURAL WATER SOURCE — The farm was really unique in many ways. First, it was up in the mountain where there was no natural source of water. And it was not a small farm by Philippine standards. It was 16 hectares. The only source of water was a submersible pump which was in operation every day during the summer months.
NO COMMERCIAL FEED – The owners didn’t feed their fish with commercial feed. They depended mainly on natural feed which was algae. They didn’t use any commercial fertilizer, either, to enhance algal growth. They didn’t use any chemical pesticide to kill whatever predator there might be in the pond before stocking with fingerlings.
BIG INCOME – The owners sold their fish from P23 to P33 per kilo yet their fish farm was very profitable. Profitable because they didn’t have any expenses on commercial feed which was and still is the biggest expense in fish farming. Every day, five days a week, they harvested 500 kilos. At P23 per kilo for the 50 grammers, that was already P11,500 daily. At P33 per kilo (100-grammers), that was a cool P16,500 in one day.
SMALL SIZE PREFERRED – Why the low selling price which was about half the prevailing price of tilapia then? Well, unlike other tilapia farmers who grew their fish to bigger size (4-5 pieces to a kilo) the Maneses preferred the smaller ones because that was what their target market in Tarlac wanted. The ordinary families preferred the smaller fish so that each member of the family could have at least a piece during meal time.
CHICKEN MANURE – Paul said that they only used chicken manure to promote the growth of algae which was all that the tilapia ate. Although they did not use commercial feed, the growth rate of their fish was comparable to those who did. Chicken manure was applied every week. There was no specific quantity of manure that was applied. Usually, however, they scattered four big sacks of chicken manure over the water per 1,000-sq.m. pond.
ALGAE OBSERVED – Paul explained that one has to observe the growth of algae in the pond so he could figure out how much manure to apply. The condition is just right for the fish if the color of the water is greenish and there is a thin film of scum on the surface. That means there is enough food for the fish.
OWN FINGERLINGS – One more thing that kept their cost of production low was that they produced their own fingerlings. The Maneses were one of the four hatcheries that were licensed to produce fingerlings of GIFT, the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia.
UNIQUE INDEED – Well, isn’t the Peter Mountain Fish Farm really unique?