Baguio City -- March 8, 2019 – A month before the visit of Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to Baguio City and Benguet Province, I have been going around talking with farmers about the current state of vegetable farming.
In a bid to modernize vegetable farming operations, the High-Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) of the Department of Agriculture-CAR has been introducing rain shelters and greenhouses to produce a variety of vegetables.
Several of our youth are catching up on modern and smart ways of farming in our rugged terrains, maximizing any space available for food production.
Our farmers also shared some problems that need to be addressed by the DA, local government units (LGUs), and the farmers themselves.
Besides the declining agricultural land, the farmers also lamented the lack of irrigation, water impounding dams, and the need for agricultural infrastructures that connect their farms to farm-to-market roads, like tramlines, and foot trails. They also welcomed the implementation of solar power irrigation systems the community or their associations can control and operate.
I was so glad reporting on my encounters in my blogs.
Finally, when Secretary Piñol came, he upped the ante even more, when he launched the latest in greenhouse farming. It was an eye-opener.
You would only imagine it is done in more advanced countries like South Korea, Israel, or Japan.
But the dream is here, now a reality in our midst.
Agriculture Secretary Piñol launched today a smart way of farming cherry tomatoes using a “state of the art” greenhouse.
After being briefed about the initial success of the operation of the smart Korean greenhouse, Secretary Piñol announced that the greenhouses will be replicated in all regions of the country, starting with a group of rebel returnees in Davao.
In an area of 3,450 square meters here, nine greenhouses were constructed for research and development, and production and training purposes on smart farming in the highlands, under local setting and conditions.
Of the nine large tunnel greenhouses, eight (8) single tunnel but connected greenhouses will be used for production and farmers education and training.
Another single tunnel greenhouse was also constructed for research and development purposes.
Known as Smart Greenhouse Philippines Project (SGPP), the state of the art and enhanced production of high quality tomatoes inside a greenhouse is jointly being implemented by the BPI-BNRDC, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the DA-High Value Commercial Crops Development Program (HVCDP), according to BPI Director, George Y. Culaste.
The greenhouse farming operation runs with the aid of a computer and solar power.
The operation has been tested with the productive and successful growth of the current crop. The first harvest started in the third month. The plants are now on their 45th day.
The Korean fabricated greenhouses are capable of producing a ton of red and yellow cherry, also known as grape tomatoes every week based on current computation and output, according to Mr. Jesus Aspuria, Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI-Baguio) Center Chief.
The project was brought to the Philippines and made possible through the efforts of Secretary Piñol, KOICA, and Korea Agency of Education, Promotion and Information Service in Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Culaste said.
The SGPP has a total grant project cost of USD 2.43 million or PHP 122.29 Million, with 70 percent share from the government of Korea and a 30% from two Korean private companies: Info ValleyKorea Co., Ltd. And Shinhan A-Tec Co., Ltd., according to a project document.
There are four farmer groups who are currently engaged as partners in the project. These groups signed today an understanding with three buyers of their production.
In Korea, the prolific fruiting cherry tomatoes are grown for their health benefits.
The cherry tomatoes grown at the SGPP greenhouses are expected to be yielding cherry tomatoes for a cycle of eight months, according to Aspuria.
Inside the SGPP greenhouses, cherry or grape tomatoes are grown above the soil, using coco peat as root base.
The crops are fertigated or fed with liquid nutrients every two hours, mist-spayed, cooled or heated depending on the temperature and the computed requirements of the crop.
In Korea, the plants are eaten to help people lose weight, according to Mr. Peter In, the Korean co-project in-charge.
Mr. In’s claim is possible when cherry tomatoes are made part of a Low-carb, high-fat diets regular meal, for some folks.
Otherwise, cherry tomatoes that are grown clean and healthy in the greenhouse are just perfect for adding to salads, soups, sandwiches, or just popped into the mouth for a tasty, healthy snack, like Secretary Piñol did today. They are sweet, especially the yellow ones.
Finally, Secretary Pinol, among other announcements said that the concerns of farmers to help them improve their livelihood and income must be addressed starting this year since the budget of the DA has been increased by the President 10 folds.