To build a bridge or to wade the waters below, 27-year-old civil engineering student Roy S. Uson of Bongalon, Labrador, Pangasinan, found himself in a choice of which path to take in life.

Roadwork or reels? Construction or crab? His heart chose the latter, but it led him to both. A pond of passion and a dam of dreams, Uson built his venture in the waters that raised him.

Uson is the only son of a fisherman whose primary source of income was the fish he watched over as a tenant and caretaker in Pangasinan. Both Uson and his father saw opportunity and income in aquafarming, and so they were driven by the currents of desire in managing their own fish farm, believing that new technology and innovative systems of aquaculture farming would make a difference that could help his fellow fish farmers increase their income, all the while harnessing their hometown’s richness in space and bodies of water.

Tapping into the community’s rich resources, Uson utilized the locale’s abundance of water and availability of production inputs for fish farming. Starting from a 200-square-meter crab-fattening fish farm, the Uson Polyculture Farmstead Aquafarm flowed smoothly into expanding to a whopping 2.3-hectare fish farm with two grow-out pens measuring 15m by 20m by 3m and containing not just one, not two, but four different species: milkfish (bangus), rabbitfish (samaral), white shrimp, and crabs. These were raised together in an aqua-polyculture system, living symbiotically, which allowed Uson to have four different means of cash flow within a singular space.

As easy as shooting fish in a barrel, Uson’s fish farm netted Php 345,000.00 in gross sales and a total of Php 240,000.00 in net income from his crab and rabbitfish enterprise last December. For March this year, he estimated a harvest with a gross sale of Php 321,000.00 and a net income of Php 243,000.00. As of the present, the Uson Polyculture Farmstead Aquafarm is raising 2,000 pieces of milkfish, 40,000 pieces of rabbitfish, 150,000 pieces of white shrimp, and 5,000 pieces of crab. And there goes the first catch: income, but it doesn’t end there.

Aside from profits, Uson also wanted to help his fellow locals. He caught business partners in local buyers and exporters from the Magsaysay Market of Dagupan City, as well as restaurant owners and individual patrons. His commodities have a limited supply; however, being high-value species, his products remain in high demand, making it easy for him to sell them at an acceptable price.

Not only does he look out for his customers, Uson also paved the way for fellow fisherfolk to adapt and easily replicate his polyculture technology, serving as a model that others can imitate and even improve upon. After all, they are not competitors, just the same fishermen boating in the same waters. From patrons to fisherfolk, to the locals he hired in his enterprise, Uson caught another big fish with one bait: giving back to the community.

The currents seemed to be within his favor as came flowing his way was the Young Farmers Challenge Program. Armed by his dream of helping his parents and owning his own business, Uson cast his net of chances, catching the win in the YFC program as well as essential entrepreneurial skills and technological advances in his industry.

With a total grant of Php 230,000.00 garnered from being the provincial and regional awardee of the YFC program, Uson expanded his farm and invested in product development like processing crabs into crab paste and drying rabbitfish. His next plan is to hook in a rabbitfish hatchery section on his farm and to net the fishing market of the entire Region 1.

In that fishing line, Uson stated that the YFC program gave him hope for not only becoming a successful entrepreneur but also a responsible son who could provide for his parents. Now doing what he loves in aquaculture, Uson continued his studies in engineering, making him realize how fortunate he is to be one of the program’s grantees, allowing him to catch his third and fourth big fish: helping his family and himself.

For a final reel, Uson encouraged his fellow youth and all the aspiring agri-preneurs in the country to be courageous in venturing into agri-business because the Department of Agriculture, especially the Young Farmers Challenge Program, is continuously providing support and assistance right from the starting point of a business down to marketing and promotion of commodities.

To build a bridge or to wade the waters below, in the aqua polyculture scene, fisherfolk would ask, is it too much to ask for both? Through innovation, hard work, and determination, Uson raised four species in one farm, just as he hooked four successes in one bait.