Intensive farming reaps rewards
Trisha Sertori, Contributor, Singakerta | Thu, 07/02/2009 1:35 PM | Surfing Bali
: Bullfrog breeders Nyoman Rata (left), Nyoman Dugil (front right) and Wayan Sudibya tend the bullfrog ponds at their Singakerta home.
Lyrics from 1980's rock band Credence Clearwater Revival's "Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was a good friend of mine", is an apt descriptor of the home of three generations of bullfrog and catfish farmers in Singakerta on the outskirts of Ubud.
Short on land for rice fields the family has turned to intensive farming of bullfrogs and catfish on a 300 square meter plot of land as a viable sideline to their regular jobs.
"I don't have rice fields so I rent this piece of land to grow the catfish and it's also here we grow on the bullfrog tadpoles," says 70 year old Nyoman Dugil, who also supplies his family with vegetables from the land.
On this handkerchief sized plot of land Dugil with son Nyoman Rata and grandson Wayan Sudibya are proving size does not count when innovation and positive risk taking come into the equation.
The family is one of the new generation of Balinese farmers looking to diversify their farming practices and generate secondary incomes.
Bullfrog farming is a long way from Rata's primary profession. He studied in Bali's National Tourism School and won a scholarship to North Carolina in the US. Despite frogs being an Indonesian delicacy, it was the US that set Rata leapfrogging the road to success.
"It was in North Carolina that I read of frog's legs being used in haute cuisine - I thought hello this is interesting - the frog legs they were selling came from Bali," says Rata who, on his return to his village began investigations into how to farm the amphibians.
"Around 2004 I visited a bullfrog farmer, Nuastra Gigi in Tabanan. He had a huge bullfrog farm. I came home and started building the ponds. I learned how to breed and care for the bullfrogs under another Tabanan bullfrog farmer, Pak Brandi. He is the one who gave us eggs and a breeding pair to get started," says Rata adding sourcing breeding pairs or their spawn is very difficult, "because so many people now want to breed bullfrogs".
At the rear of Rata's home, in an area around the size of an average kitchen, Rata and his family is growing on up to 4000 bullfrogs; from spawning to table takes up to nine months.
Adult breeding pairs, treated as well as winning racehorses, are sent four times a year to the honeymoon ponds that are complete with water gardens, fresh running water and high protein foods.
"We place one female with three males. She chooses her partner and if she is ready to breed will lay up to 6,000 eggs after three days," said Rata. Of these almost 4,000 bullfrogs will survive. In the wild that figure would be less than 500, explains Rata of the care given to the eggs and tadpoles.
Because of the high value of breeding pairs, Rata says they started with the adults breeding at home.
"That first time I heard them breeding I was so excited. But then realized the sound of the bullfrogs calling to mate was massive - it was deafening. I knew the neighbors would not enjoy that - we couldn't stand it and they were our breeders," said Rata of the honeymoon ponds, now at a distance from the village.
"At egg and tadpole stage the bullfrogs are highly sensitive. They grow on in an environmentally very clean series of ponds," said Rata. Like the honeymoon ponds, these nurseries have water gardens and are on the family's small plot of leased land.
The biggest danger to the tadpoles comes from snakes, according to grandfather Dugil, who also farms catfish on the land.
"I am always catching and moving the snakes. This is heaven for them," he chuckles.
Dugil harvests his catfish for sale in Denpasar's central market earning Rp 11,000 (US$1) per kilo live weight. "The catfish are ready to harvest at four months, the bullfrogs at nine months," says Dugil of the mixed pond farming run by his family.
Bullfrog live weights earn nearly Rp 30,000 per kilogram with most bullfrog meat sold into Jakarta, explains grandson Sudibya.
"We are not yet exporting overseas. At the moment there is still not enough product. We need to build this business across Bali before we begin serious marketing overseas. To export we need to have a constant supply. To build a viable overseas market for bullfrog meat we have to be prepared," says Sudibya.
He adds bullfrog farming is environmentally friendly.
"Frogs are highly sensitive to environmental changes. It needs to be chemical free and natural to successfully breed and grow on the bullfrogs. This *bullfrog breeding* does offer families a second income stream without environmental damage and needing only very small land areas," said Sudibya.
Consumers are also winners, bullfrog meat is low fat and tastes like free range chicken, according to Sudibya.