BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Throughout the years, technology has played a critical role in making people’s lives easier in every aspect. Even in farming, the effects of technology can be seen as it helped farmers adopt new systems that increased their farms’ productivity, yield, and sustainability.
New ideas can come from different people who share in the vision of developing the world. To help encourage the youth to foster new ideas to help improve the current situation of Philippine agriculture, the Innovation Olympics was established by East-West Seed, together with the UPLB-College of Economics and Management, Center for Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, and APEX: The UPLB Business Network.
Innovation Olympics 2.0 (I.O 2.0) is an “agri hackathon” where young innovators can showcase their potential in developing innovative solutions for the farming sector of the country. This year’s theme is “Precision agriculture for small-scale vegetable farming.”
After a year of planning and developing, six teams vied for the position during the Grand Finals held online on October 15, Friday. The teams presented and defended their projects to a panel of capable judges.
With careful deliberation and consideration, the judges declared a tie between Team AIRIN and Team Project Angat for their ideas that address farmers’ concerns of maximizing their farm’s yields.
Hailing from Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU), the members of Team AIRIN developed a project that revolves around the idea of a solar-powered irrigation system with pest control.
The idea was born after they interviewed local farmers and realized that their main concern is maximizing their time and yield. With AIRIN, an automatic irrigation nutrient management system, farmers will be equipped with technology that uses soil sensors, water level sensors, communication systems, and a solar-powered irrigation system.
Soil is the foundation of agriculture. Farmers have to consistently monitor soil health and meet its requirements to secure the quality of the crops they grow. They spend long hours watering, fertilizing, and testing the soil to see if it’s up to par.
But these activities are time-consuming and, at times, costly. AIRIN hopes to change the way farmers work by providing them with an automated system that does the irrigation and fertilization for them. It monitors the soil’s condition using the sensors installed and notifies farmers in real-time about the status of their farms.
AIRIN also provides soil amendments and fertilizer recommendations based on the crops’ specific requirements.
The team behind the project developed the technology to be user-friendly and specifically designed to help local vegetable farmers understand their farms’ conditions so they can respond accordingly.
During the first field test of AIRIN, the group’s adopted farming community reported 45 percent less fertilizer application, 300 percent less water consumption, higher crop yields with better quality, and no significant crop loss during the dry season.
With AIRIN, farmers can achieve more without sacrificing sustainability.
Team Project Angat
From the University of Mindanao Main Campus UMAsenso Hub, Team Project Angat focused their efforts on how to make vegetable farming more convenient and profitable with the help of their technology called Malakas, an automated vertical farming system made of bamboo.
Other ideas that the team developed are Maganda, a water-soluble formula made from waste materials such as banana peels and eggshells to stimulate plant growth and protect against diseases, and Dumangan, a digital platform that connects farmers to potential buyers and other farmers.
Team Project Angat’s vertical farming system utilizes bamboo because of its abundance in their area, is a cheaper material, and has a better environmental impact. The system is equipped with a battery, a black box medicine container, a tri-meter sensor, and a water pump device.
Once the sensor detects changes in the pH and water levels, it will send a text message to the farmers. The vertical system measures six by ten feet wide and has 420 slots for growing lettuce. Its water cycle is also properly designed to prevent the water from overflowing and to make sure that the nutrient-filled water is distributed accordingly to the bases of the slots.
Many vegetable farmers in the country operate on a small scale. At times, they don’t have access to the proper inputs and other resources needed to maintain a farm that produces high yields.
But with Team Project Angat’s vertical farming system, farmers can maximize the potential of their farm by using a cost-effective material that provides them with the space and solution to secure high-quality yields that they can sell to consumers.
Both Team AIRIN and Team Project Angat showed potential in alleviating the farming industry through technology. As the grand winners of I.O 2.0, the two teams are looking forward to improving their ideas to entice more farmers and make their job of feeding the country easier.