The Benefits of Seaweed Farming

It all started with a simple curiosity, the others just followed and soon, he is hooked. This is the case with Mang Ramiro Panganiban, one of the successful farmer-cooperators of the Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) on “Seaweeds Showcase Project” in Pilar, Sorsogon. The project is being implemented by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 5, the Sorsogon State College (SSC), and the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Pilar.

For Mang Ramiro, 38 years old, his being into seaweed farming started with a simple curiosity and the will to succeed. Before engaging into seaweed farming, he was into drift gill net or pagpapalutang, getting by and providing his family on a mere subsistence level. From his fellow fishermen, he learned about the potential of seaweed farming and the growing number of fisherfolk engaging into it. He also learned about the LGU’s project on seaweeds. “Try-try lang baka dito pala ako kikita!” (I just tried. Maybe this is where I will have better earnings) says Mang Ramiro with a glee.

He started seaweed farming in 2003. It was also during this time that he became one of the farmer-cooperators and was appointed chairman of the Seaweed Farmers and Traders Association (SFTA) in Dao, Pilar, Sorsogon. Composed mainly of seaweed farmers from 11 coastal barangays of Pilar, the organization is headed by Mr. Jose Razel Monzales, also a seaweed farmer. In 2005, the Association grew from three to its now 138 members. As farmer-cooperator, Mang Ramiro was given materials for seaweeds farming like straw, rope, boat, and 15 kg of seaweed seeds as starters.

Benefits

For Mang Ramiro, the additional income that he would bring home to his family was his initial motivation for engaging into seaweed farming, although, he believes in its potential to change the lives of his fellow fishers. He is not aware of the statistics of seaweed farming but he was right all along.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), commercial production of seaweeds through farming is at present limited to a few countries in East Asia making it a high value crop with a high demand in the world market. The Philippines is noted for the culture of seaweeds (particularly Eucheuma and Caulerpa) along with Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan.

In Pilar, Sorsogon, the most widely cultivated species of seaweed is the Kappaphycus alvarezii (known before as Euchema cottonii), due to its high marketability and demand compared to seaweeds like K. striatum or Saccul and spinosum type now known as E. denticulatum.

When asked about the benefits Mang Ramiro gets from seaweeds farming, he was jubilant in saying, “Ah marami!” (Plenty!) In the span of three years, aside from the boat and the materials he got as farmer-cooperator, his income increased.

The volume of production in one harvest amounts to about 4, 200 kg of fresh seaweeds or 600 kg when dried. His own seaweed farm, which measures 50m x 50 m, earned him P50,000 in 2003 when he harvested 900 kg of fresh seaweeds. With this income, he was able to put his three children to school. Aside from seaweed farming, Mang Ramiro did not stop from his old job as drift gill net fisher because as he says, “Dagdag kita din ito!” (It’s an additional income).

Since Mang Ramiro is a bonafide member of SFTA, pricing of his produce is not a problem. The Association also serves as a sure market outlet for him and the other members.

Hurdles

Like any endeavor, Mang Ramiro encountered some problems like weather condition, i.e. storm. In 2005, for instance, he said that his income went down to P3, 000 per harvest of 800kg of fresh seaweeds due to the erratic weather condition. Since their seaweeds are cultivated in the shallow part of the sea, the fluctuation in the salinity of water needs also to be closely monitored because it affects the quality of the seaweeds.

When asked why his harvest went down from 900 kg of seaweeds in 2003 to 600 kg last year, he explained that he gave some of the seeds to his colleagues so they too could start. “Gusto rin kasi nilang mag-try magtanim kaya minsan pinamimigay ko yung seeds, (They also like to try so I gave them the seeds)” reckoned Mang Ramiro.

Although seaweed farming is not as demanding in terms of maintenance, Mang Ramiro said that sometimes, it becomes difficult for him since he does everything from planting to harvest. He regularly clean the ropes (every 3 days) where the seaweeds are planted. He also does the delivery of the harvest to the market.

Mang Ramiro believes in the saying, “No pain, no gain” and added that in every endeavor, one must persevere to achieve something. What is important, he said, is that people learn from experience. When asked whether he will farm seaweeds for life, he said an astounding “yes” and ends it with, “Bilib ako sa seaweeds (I believe in seaweeds).”

Proper Cultivation of Seaweeds

Eucheuma has two types: the cottonii (or guso) and the spinosum (or agar-agar). Both of them can be exported in dried forms. Of these two, cotonnii grows faster and is easier to farm.
Propagation – Choose a body of water where seaweeds are endemic; algae eel grasses and sea animals are abundant. The sea bottom should be of hard sand or rocks with the water moving and holding the seaweed loosely. Water depth should be at 1 or 2 feet at low tide. Avoid areas where freshwater dilutes seawater. To determine the suitable site, test and monitor seaweed growth for at least two weeks. Eucheuma will show signs of deterioration after a month if the condition are not ideal.

Net Method – The net farming method has advantages of growing more plants in a given area, but may be very costly and labor-intensive to some, ft makes use of a rectangular net, 2.5 by 5 meters with a diagonal meshwork having a 25 cm bar length, made of monofilament nylon or stranded polypropylene lines. The margins should be testable for 110 to 150 Ibs. and the meshwork for 30 to 100 Ibs.

Monoline Method – This method uses monofilament lines instead of nets to which cuttings are ties approximately 20 or 25 cm from each other. Wooden posts are driven to the bottom, 10 meters apart in rows and a meter between rows. The line are tied at both ends of the posts parallel to each other and 20 to 25 cm from the bottom.

Maintenance – Its essential to remove fish and other sea animals that may feed on the seaweeds. Eel grasses and other seaweeds may tend to overcrowd I the plant so they should be consistently cut. Keep the farm well-attended. Slow-growing plants should be replaced immediately with fast-growing ones.

Harvesting – Harvesting may be done by pruning the branches and leaving portions of the plant to grow again or by taking all the plants and replacing them with new cuttings, which is best done before each plant reached 1 kg. Seaweed for export should have a moisture content of not more than 25 to 30 percent so remember to keep them covered at night and during rains.

Bureau of Agricultural Research
Department of Agriculture
3/F RDMIC Bldg., Visayas Ave.
cor. Elliptical Rd., Diliman Quezon City 1104

Trunklines: 928-8505 or 927-0226
Local Nos. 2043, 2042, 2044
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.bar.gov.ph

author: Rita T. dela Cruz of www.bar.gov.ph, photo from wikipedia.org

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