THE first solar-powered irrigation system and circular fish and vegetable tanks in the village of New Janiuay, M'lang, North Cotabato are set to be inaugurated on February 3 by President Rodrigo Duterte.

This is revealed by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol Thursday, January 19, at the sidelines of the inauguration of a coconut processing plant in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

“We started this project just last September 2016 and we’re excited to finally launch this innovation,” he said.

Piñol said the innovative system designed by a group of Filipino and American engineers will mark the start of a revolutionary method of providing water to rice fields, raising tilapia and growing vegetables using solar power.

He explained the Solar-Powered Irrigation System, which is a grant from the government, will source its power from the sun to run a Grundfos water pump costing only P5 million with virtually no maintenance cost for the next five to 10 years.

“This system can irrigate up to 15 hectares daily. We target to irrigate one million hectares of agricultural lands for the next five years,” Piñol said.

As this is a grant from the government, Piñol said, the farmers have to organize themselves to manage and maintain the facility.

In a previous interview, Piñol explained that the system “could pump out 300 gallons of water every minute to irrigate 100 hectares of rice fields in about 15 days using PVC pipes in the water distribution rather than open canals.”

The agriculture chief said with sufficient irrigation water, the average rice production could increase from only four metric tons to eight metric tons if the farmer uses hybrid rice seeds and sufficient fertilizer.

“We need this kind of technology because our population is fast-increasing by some three percent and if we don’t find ways there will come a time that our rice and food will not be sufficient to feed all Filipinos,” he stressed.

Piñol added that beside the solar panels are two circular tanks dubbed as “Circles of Life” measuring 30 feet in diameter.

Each is needed to be filled with water of about three-feet deep. The first tank will serve for growing water cress or kangkong and other vegetables planted in pails hanging by the side of the tank half submerged in water using a modified Aquaponics system of planting vegetables.

The second tank will contain about 3,000 Tilapia fingerlings.

He said these “tilapias” could be grown for about four months, just in time when the farmer harvests his rice after planting.

Piñol said that he invited President Duterte “to personally witness the actual demonstration of this project believed to be not only to contribute to greater food production but also address poverty and malnutrition in the countryside.”