The St Catherine-based ‘Williams Farm’ has been putting fresh, locally grown food on the tables of Jamaicans for generations.
Now its youngest proprietor, Trey Williams, has decided to carve out his niche in the family business by focusing his efforts on tilapia farming.
Under the keen maintenance of the 26-year-old, the family’s farm boasts 13 one-acre fishponds, each containing about 15,000 tilapia, some of different breeds.
Each one-acre pond on the Williams Farm can contain up to 15,000 tilapia. The freshwater fish is versatile and tolerant of different aquaculture environments. (Photo: JIS)
Williams’ responsibilities include feeding the fish twice each day and seeing to the upkeep of the ponds, to prevent overcrowding and pest infestation before reaping day.
Speaking with JIS News, the third-generation farmer explained that the business was started by his grandfather who passed it on to his father and so, “I grew up in farming on a whole”.
He is a past student of St Jago High School, where he showed interest in business subjects, but did not know just what his future would entail.
By the time he turned 20, “I was into the chicken coop [side of the business] with grandma and then she said: ‘Why don’t you go and invest some of your money in the fish farm with your dad and see if you can help the business to grow more?’.”
He reluctantly took that advice. “I was sceptical about it at first, but she really convinced me and this has been my thing ever since. I took my time and fell in love with it,” he reflects.
Tilapia, which is a freshwater fish that inhabits shallow streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes, is versatile and tolerant of different aquaculture environments. It can be farmed in brackish or salt water and in cage systems or ponds, similar to the ones operated by the Williams family.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) have been calling for an increase in tilapia farming to boost local fish production and to relieve the stress on reef fish. There is also a growing domestic demand for the freshwater delight.
Trey Williams, 26, feeds tilapia in one of the 13 fishponds on the Williams Family farm in St Catherine. (Photo: JIS)
Backed by his own successes, Williams is encouraging others, particularly youngsters, to get involved in the venture, deeming it a ‘good investment’ with guaranteed returns.
“Fish is like chicken… if fish is for sale, somebody is going to want to buy fish,” he argued.
“It takes a lot of resources, but if you can get it started, I would tell you to do it,” Mr. Williams adds.
He admitted that there are a few limitations that come with the practice.
“Some time last year, we ended up losing five ponds of fish because of the rain,” he lamented.
Those ponds are now restored, thanks in part to the NFA, which provided fish and feed. He also received an award from the organisation on Fisherman’s Day, recognising him as a young fish farmer.
Overall, the outgoing young man said of his main economic activity that “when you win, you win”, and noted that more than 4,000 pounds of tilapia can be harvested in one catch.
This is sold to higglers who journey from far, having heard the good news of the Williams family and, of course, the deliciousness and viability of tilapia.
Williams disclosed that there are plans to expand the family farm, which should include more ponds and additional ways to earn a living from the increasingly popular and in-demand fish.