Farmer-scientist raises ulang in his backyard


Giant freshwater prawn (Macrobachium rosenbergii) locally known as “ulang” or “uwang” can now be raised and cultured in one’s backyard. And this is what Benjamin G. Gerona, Jr. of Buac Gamay in Sogod, Southern Leyte just did. He did not only integrate “tilapia” in his rice farm, he also ventured into freshwater prawn or ulang culture to earn more.

As Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) or farmer-scientist, Gerona was also tapped to implement the Science and Technology-based Farm (STBF) on giant fresh water prawn production.

Along with Southern Leyte State University (SLSU) researchers Veronica L. Reoma, Nestor O. Morales, and Tamar Mejia, Jr., they studied the adaptability and commercial viability of ulang. Also, they determined the best management strategies for the production of ulang. Further, the study was conducted to address the demand for freshwater prawns in the market.

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) funded the STBF project. The project is being coordinated by the Visayas Consortium for Agriculture and Resources Program (ViCARP) and its partner member agency, SLSU.

How he did it
The process of the production consists of preparing 300-m2 grow-out aquaculture ponds for each cycle: one for the first cycle; two for the second cycle; and one for the third cycle. Prawn fry pieces (recently hatched prawns) were stocked on each pond at different rates for each cycle. For the feeds, prawn commercial feeds mixed with crushed golden “kuhol” (golden apple snail), fish trashes, and leftovers were used.

Cucumber and of viny vegetables such as “upo” and squash were also planted. Trellises were constructed for the upo to grow on and to serve as shade for the prawns, instead of using coconut fronds to serve the purpose.

Results of the project showed that ulang culture is a profitable venture. Each cycle showed an increasing harvest. For Gerona’s total investment of P34,400, the return-on-investment was 32%.

Based on feedbacks from experts, the management strategies that worked well were:
(1) Proper water management to avoid the stopping of molting (the process of changing shell of the prawn that would lead to increase in body weight);
(2) Proper maintenance of the water quality to prevent the presence of too much algae; and
(3) Not totally replacing commercial prawn feeds which contain high crude protein with just crushed kuhol and fish trashes, since it can lead to the nutrition deficiency of the prawns.

Incidentally, MS Gerona’s innovativeness was not left unnoticed. In 2010, he was awarded a Gawad Saka by the Department of Agriculture–Regional Field Office No. 8. (Jesame M. Auza/VSU-DDC and W.T. Alesna/VSU-DDC /ViCARP-RCTU)