The first “smart farm” in the Philippines has been launched in Quezon City under the auspices of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), an agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The smart farm is a facility for the Smart Plant Production in Controlled Environments (SPICE), a R128 million program that will promote urban farming and high-tech plant conservation. It will be housed at the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute’s Nursery of Indigenous and Endemic Plants in Quezon City. Teaming up to develop SPICE are the UP Diliman Institute of Biology and Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, and the UP Los Baños Institute of Biology.

The Lagikway is an indigeous vegetable found in Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

This program aims to lead the research and development for the design of a stand-alone urban farm system and establish protocols for micropropagation, cryopreservation, and nursery management of rare, endangered, and economically valuable native plant species. “The core of this project is not only the development of new technology, but also, on a macro perspective, to ensure that we can protect our country’s rich biodiversity,” DOST Undersecretary for R&D Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara said.

Modern farming methods like vertical farming, micropropagation, cryopreservation, and hydroponics will be practiced to grow native plants in an environment wherein the climate, lighting, and irrigation system can be monitored, controlled, and changed in real time with the use of electronics, sensors, and automation. “My idea of internationalization is exporting our own ideas, that foreign scientists will come to the country to study trees that are endemic here. SPICE is an innovation project,” remarked UP executive vice president Dr. Teodoro Herbosa.

National Scientist and UP Professor Emeritus Dr. Edgardo Gomez shared his experiences in biology and commended the team for initiating the project, saying that “This (SPICE) will be a world-class institute.”

Aside from the technical features of the project, the facility is envisioned to include a “living laboratory” where visitors can see the various technologies employed, and a store where they can buy fresh vegetables grown on-site.

This appeared without a byline in Agriculture Monthly’s May 2018 issue.