Jason Tamano : Quality Is Still the Key In Business
Blue Fin Fish Farm owner Jason Tamano shares with us his colorful journey as he wades through the uncharted waters of the tilapia business
As a child growing up in Malabon, Jason Ta- mano discovered to his delight that he has this effortless and natural knack for raising fishes. Not only did he find joy in having fishes as pets, he also got curious about other aquatic creatures and their serene life under the sea. “I guess it was my calling,” he tells us. “It got serious that I enrolled in a fisheries course in U.P. in the Visayas.”
Tamano’s studies was cut short in 1993 when on a whim, he just decided to take a leave of absence from the university and tried his luck to make it as an entrepreneur in Mindanao. With less than Php20,000 in his pocket, a few clothes and lots of grit and guts, the adventurous fish lover headed to Dipolog City where lapu-lapu is endemic. Right there and then, he thought of buying and selling the lapu-lapu fingerlings.
For three years, Tamano initially bought and sold lapu-lapu fingerlings to pond and cage operators in Bulacan and Iloilo, as his cash flow improved he started raising them himself.. Soon, he discovered that growing and trading lapu-lapu was a niche market, he wouldn’t make much earning in raising and selling lapu-lapu. “Since I was catering mostly to rich clients who can afford the lapu-lapu, I told myself: why don’t I go to the masses and raise a mass-based fish? That’s where I thought of raising tilapia,” he recalls. “We used the saline tilapia strain(O. hornorum) that was made popular by Mr. Rey Visitacion of the GEM (Growth for Equity in Mindanao) program.”
Wellspring of experiences
The experience made Jason Tamano realize two major things: first, tilapia is so easy to raise and second, the Mindanao market at that time was not yet ready to accept tilapia as a staple viand. “We practically flooded the Dipolog market with tilapia and people were not really responding positively to the product because there were lots of other fishes in that area,” he recalls. “That’s where I thought of raising tilapia in Luzon.”
Before doing that however, Tamano went back to school to finish his fisheries degree andworked for a little over a year in a fisheries company in China engaged in the export of tilapia. Again, these experiences honed not only his technical expertise in raising tilapia, the fish lover also got to see how the fisheries business operates abroad. Little did Tamano know that those rich experiences of his were just a rehearsal for better things to come.
Back in the Philippines, the good-natured and friendly entrepreneur first revived his godmother’s small farm in Calauan, Laguna and converted a portion of it into a tilapia hatchery. After that, one thing led to another and soon, in 2007, he found a 13-hectare piece of watered land in Mabitac, Laguna to which he expanded his hatchery and started to grow breeders. Early last year, a colleague of Tamano, Mr. Rio Alcantara, who he worked with abroad, partnered with him and together, started another tilapia farm in Sta. Ana, Pampanga—the province which supplies a significant portion of Manila’s daily tilapia requirement.
The tripod system
Through the years, Tamano has learned that it takes three requirements in order to succeed in the tilapia enterprise: good genetics; sound management and the proper feeds. This tripod system, he says, has worked for him despite the usual dose of setbacks which are all part and parcel of business life. “The genetics side, CLSU bar none has the best tilapia strains. A lot of times, I’ve been asked how I deal with business competition and I always tell people, it really boils down to quality. Once you have it down pat, then you go for quantity for quantity alongside quality It’s the key in this business or any business for that matter.” he explains. To illustrate, Tarnano says compared to other tilapia breeds, which normally takes 7- 11 months to harvest in cages in Batangas, his breed only takes around 100-120 days before they grow to the required marketable size. “Right now, I only cater to a specific segment of the tilapia industry : fingerlings because this in a nutshell is where the whole business cycle starts if the farmer starts with bad seed then his chances of having a good harvest are slim,” he further explains. “I supply the fish farmers and the growers. I really went out of my way knocking on their doors establishing a good working relationship with them building rapport and earning the trust of my clients. So far, it’s been working well because they can see the quality of our product. With the high cost of feeds and other operating inputs, the sooner the farmer can harvest his stock the faster he can recover his investment and make a reasonable amount of profit.”
In Tamano’s estimate, 30% of his production cost goes to feeds, while the rest goes to land rental, overhead, transport and labor. Right now, there are eight competent people under him whom he relies on every time he cannot attend to the many needs of his farm. “I work with them on a commission basis, so in a way, they are also part owners of the farm,” he says. So it’s also a way of empowering them.”
As of press time, Blue Fin , Tamano’s fisheries company, sells , sex-reversed size 22, unvaccinated fingerlings. Upon request, they will vaccinate the fingerlings for streptococcus bacteria for a fee. They also sell day old tilapia fry.
Work in progress
Asked if he has recouped his investments, Tamano is quick to reply that he hasn’t, but he’s eventually growing there. He explains: “You have to remember that we were one of the casualties of typhoon Ondoy. Our farms were completely inundated. Out of my 60,000 tilapia breeders, only 11,000 survived so it was like starting all over. But we’re slowly recovering. We’re still a work in progress.”
Part of the recovery process, Tamano further explains, is in vertical integration. Eventually, he also plans to enter into a contract growing scheme with tilapia food processors and hopefully help farmers go into other value-adding activities or link them to institutional buyers.
It takes around Php 2M to Php7M investment in order to be profitable in the tilapia hatchery business, the dynamic fish lover reveals. “It’s hard to survive if you’re just in the backyard level, its all about scale” he seriously intones. “There is money in tilapia but you have to do it smartly because tilapia is a very price sensitive commodity. I’ve seen a lot of people who succeeded in this endeavor who are just high school graduates. Lastly know your strengths and your markets and you will be in good stead.”
From the looks of it, Jason Tamano, the man born to raise fishes, will reap his rewards sooner than he thinks.
Jason Tamano Shares his Business Lessons
• A little knowledge is dangerous. Learn everything you can about your commodity—from the technical to the practical business side.
• Be aware of opportunities. Always be on the lookout and develop that curious attitude about what’s happening around.
• Be patient. The aqua business has a normal gestation period.
• Be keen of new technology developments but don’t view this as silver bullets which are the quick solutions to your problems.
• Always watch out for your cash flow as this would dictate your other business actions
Mr. Jason Tamano can be reached thru firstname.lastname@example.org cell 09163991888(globe), 09396441888(smart)
By Ronald G. Mangubat