Milkfish Milkfish is considered the most important aquaculture species grown in the country. It is widely grown in 7 out of the 16 regions of the country, majority of which are in Central Luzon, Northwestern Luzon, and Western Visayas. In 2005 alone, the production of milkfish rose to nearly 52% or 289.2 thousand metric tons of the Philippines’ total aquaculture output of fish and shellfish valued at PhP 17,577 (BAS, 2007).

To strengthen the milkfish industry, research and development (R&D) agencies have contributed significantly by providing technologies that increase the options to the milkfish farmers in terms of modification and improvements in grow-out practices, i.e., adoption of multiple and high-input production systems, feed formulation, broodstock management and hatchery technology.

Despite the advancement in technology for the milkfish industry, there seems to be a wide gap between the systems practiced by the milkfish farmers and the state-of-the-art in milkfish technologies. Some call it the “yielde gap” referring to the difference in realizable harvest between research stations and actual production farms. Hence, there is an urgent need to disseminate innovations to the farmers in order to attain the full benefits of technological developments.

In view of the importance of the milkfish industry in the country, the dissemination of appropriate technologies to milkfish farmers, especially the small scale operators, becomes crucial. Through wide-scale dissemination of new milkfish technologies, the country can secure the long term viability of the sector with producers able to optimize their operations.

Milkfish project
To address the need to disseminate the latest technologies for the milkfish industry, the National Integrated Fisheries and Technology Development center of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-NIFTDC), the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center SEAFDEC-AQD), the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, and The World Fish Center, collaborated on the conceptualization of a project titled, “Dissemination and Adoption of Smallscale Milkfish Aquaculture Technologies in the Philippines”.

The general objective of the project is to study the production, marketing and policy structures of the of the milkfish industry in the Philippines in order to identify the constraints and opportunities for the future growth with emphasis on the adoption and impact of technological development using case studies in small-scale hatchery/nursery, grow-out production and processing systems. It is expected that the output of the research can be transferred or replicated in other parts of the country.

The Milkfish project was divided into four parts, namely: Policy and Socioeconomic Review; Technology Review and Screening Component; Overall Framework and Baseline Information; and Pilot testing and dissemination of the technology component. The activities in these components are interrelated and their respective outputs will be jointly used to come up with strategies and recommendations to develop the smallscale milkfish industry.

Given the pro-poor focus of the project, the pilot case studies are aimed to showcase production and postharvest technologies prioritized by the project for smallholder operators. It was felt that by targeting the smallscale and mediumscale producers/ operators, the participation of small milkfish producers and operators in the supply chain will be encouraged. Hence, four sites that operate smallscale production of milkfish were selected for the projects pilot site: a) Brgy. Dulao, Aringay,La Union; b) Brgy. Raois, Sto.Tomas, La Union; c) Brgy. Malacapas, Dasol, Pangasinan, and;d) Brgy. Nayom, Infanta, Pangasinan.

Fingerling production
The usual stocking density of the milkfish farmers in Aringay, La Union ranged from 30-60 per m2. The NIFTDC team recommended a stocking density of 30 pieces per m2 in the pilot sites based on the shallow depth of the existing ponds to efficiently utilize their pond area. To hasten the technology transfer, the milkfish farmers were enticed to adopt the piloted nursery technology by giving them access to milkfish fry from BFAR-NIFTDC hatcheries at a discounted price. Based on the results, the farmers in the municipalities of Aringay and Dasol were able to earn additional incomes ranging from PhP 1,000 to 50,000 relative to the size of the nursery pond and stocking density. The harvested fingerlings were either sold by the farmers to nearby markets or used as stock for their growout operations. The benefit of disseminating this type of technology in other milkfish growing areas is that this assures a steady supply of milkfish fingerlings especially in localities that are far from private or public hatcheries. Similarly, the growing demand for larger milkfish fingerlings, used for seeding of mariculture cages, and for juveniles both present good opportunities to develop fingerling production.

Feeding management
Four demo sites were established to demonstrate the growth performance of milkfish under different culture methods and to help the milkfish farmers better understand the importance of proper feeding management to the farmers. Proper feeding management needs to be emphasized to the milkfish operators because of the fact that most of them have a tendency to feed their stock ad libitum, especially for those that have external financiers and do not have any problem with feed supply.

The following treatments were established in the four demo sites: a) Pond 1- Milkfish Polyculture with P. vannamei (white shrimp); b) Pond 2- Monoculture of P. vannamei (control); c) Pond 3- Milkfish with fish management; d) Milkfish with ad libitum feeding. From the results, the polyculture of milkfish with shrimp yielded the best result, followed by milkfish with controlled feeding, P. vannamei monoculture, and milkfish fed ad libitum. This result shows the efficiency of feed consumption under the milkfish-shrimp polyculture. Cost and return analysis also revealed that, for a one-season cropping of milkfish polyculture with white shrimp for a 1,500 m2 pond, this resulted to a total net income of PhP15,635 vs PhP 9,435 for milkfish polyculutre. This is about 66% additional income due to the addition of the shrimp crop.

Meanwhile, the cost and return analysis of one season cropping for milkfish grow-out production with proper feed management, a 5% increase in net income was achieved through controlled feeding vs. ad libitum use of feeds. The increase in income could be attributed to the lower cost of feed as 33% less feed was used compared with the ad libitum use of feed. These results lend support to the economic soundness of the piloted technologies.

Value adding of milkfish products
Deboned milkfish is the most popular value-added milkfish product. The production of deboned milkfish has given rise to other value-added products. Trimmings and bits of the flesh that are invariably removed with the bones can be processed into fishballs, lumpiang shanghai, quekiam and embutido. These products enjoy a good market domestically and in other countries with large overseas Filipino communities.

To introduce the mentioned value adding techniques, training on processing milkfish into different product forms to widen its market base was undertaken by the cooperators of the project. Training manuals were also used as supplement materials. Aside from the training of the cooperators, a training of trainors was also conducted to sustain the technology dissemination in the countryside beyond the end of the milkfish project. Based on the results from the 333 cooperators on milkfish processing in the three pilot barangays, the average additional income that could be earned from value-added milkfish products can range from PhP 277 to 655 per operation per day.

The success of the milkfish processing projects in the pilot sites was made possible by the full support of the local government, where the municipal government recognized and tapped the potential of the project and made it a model livelihood program of the barangay.

Conclusion
It could be said that the proper dissemination and adoption of small-scale milkfish technologies can be an important strategy in addressing poverty alleviation. However, as observed in the study, there are still some issues that need to be addressed in order to strengthen the extension delivery system of milkfish technologies. For instance, the existing national extension program needs to be strengthened both in terms of structure and management to address the logistics concern in extension delivery system. An effective linkage and coordination between BFAR-Regional Offices and fisheries training centers, State Universities and Colleges, LGUs and other non-government fisheries agencies which are directly working with local communities along the line of technology transfer must be established and sustained. Information campaigns and trainings of fisheries technicians and extension workers in milkfish producing areas should also be conducted prior to dissemination at the grassroots level to build the capacity of local government unit officials on nursery and grow-out production, as well as milkfish processing and value addition.

Dissemination efforts in the area of technology adoption, especially in the form that can be easily taken up by farmers due to its adaptability and low capitalization requirement, have a strong potentials for enhancing the productivity performance and income of small-scale stakeholders. The importance of extending simple and easily adaptable technologies to small-scale farmers and operators is that the outcomes of technology transfer can be realized readily in the very short term. Success can be a motivating factor that can bring confidence to extension workers and clientele themselves and, hence, technology transfer can be self-reinforcing and sustainable.

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The article is based on the project “Dissemination and Adoption of Small-scale Milkfish Aquaculture Technologies in the Philippines” by Westly R. Rosario NFRDI and Yolanda T. Garcia of UPLB.

Source: Ellaine Grace L. Nagpala, “Efficient dissemination of small-scale milkfish aquaculture technologies” Bardigest January-March 2009 Volume 11 Issue No. 1

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