Starting something from scratch is often the hardest part of doing any project, especially if the person does not have any prior background. The same is true in farming. More so, applying technological concepts such as a hydroponics setup might be a daunting task for young people who want to venture into agriculture.
Nick Loque, a young educator from Benguet, was in the same situation when the pandemic started. However, his curiosity and perseverance led him to establish Dontog Technofarms, a booming hydroponics farm in Benguet that sells a variety of fruit and vegetable crops.
Loque shared some tips for young enthusiasts who want to venture into hydroponic farming:
First and foremost, Loque advises young farming enthusiasts to benchmark existing agribusinesses, especially since hydroponic farming has been quite an established community in the Philippines. There are several farmers already successful in growing crops using the setup, and they are very open to benchmarking and helping people who are curious and starting with the business. Loque also shared that while starting, he encountered several online and offline hydroponic farming communities catering to different queries, solutions, and even the supply market.
After getting curious about hydroponic farming and in touch with fellow enthusiasts, Loque also had the chance to learn more about farming techniques, crop management, and hydroponics through government-led seminars, fora, and exhibitions. Loque advises young farming enthusiasts to grab these learning and networking opportunities, often spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture (DA), not just to gain more knowledge and skills, but also to expose themselves to the realities of the field. Many government-led training are free and may include different financial or material incentives for starters, Loque added.
Loque cautions enthusiasts who are determined to enter the field of hydroponic farming against trying to achieve everything all at once. While it is tempting to grow many varieties of crops or engage with complicated systems early on, Loque’s advice is to always start with the basics. Gauging one’s environment, resources, and one’s capacity to grow crops is vital to ensure the sustainability of the project. Farming enthusiasts may first try planting lettuce and herbs as starter crops, Loque added. In terms of having a hydroponic setup, those still unsure of what system to craft may engage first with low-cost starter kits worth around 500 to 1,000 pesos. According to Loque, there are already a lot of starter kits available online, wherein about a dozen small-sized crops can be planted. Starting with the basics will help enthusiasts start with no excessive financial output, a problem often encountered by starting business owners.
Once the hydroponic farm is established, owners can eventually tap the DA or the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for technological applications or subsidies to help the farm grow. There are already several government and private initiatives to help hydroponic farmers make their crop output more efficient and more adaptable to local weather. Loque added that while technological products are often costly, there are government loans and subsidies available for farmers, they just need to inquire at their local DA office.
Last, but definitely, not least, Loque stresses the importance of establishing a target market for the crops grown. By securing product chains going from the farm to a specified market, farmers can prevent having an oversupply of crops, which often leads to either selling them at a very low price or directing them to landfills. Loque shares that this can be achieved by getting into agricultural events or markets to seek potential buyers and groups interested in the variety of crops being grown by the farmer.
Farming is not an easy job, especially for young enthusiasts with no background in agriculture. However, there are the likes of Nick Loque, who are more than willing to share the lessons they have learned to help those interested in venturing into the field that feeds the nation.
Photo courtesy of Nick Loque of Dontog Technofarms.