Last September 22, we witnessed the proclamation of the three finalists in the East-West Seed Innovation Olympics at UP Los Baños participated in by ten teams of college students. The Olympics is a competition that challenges the next generation to come up with novel ideas and technologies that could increase production and profits of vegetable farmers. East-West, by the way, is the country’s leading seed company in the Philippines.
A wide range of ideas were submitted for the competition like solar-powered irrigation system, use of enzymes and probiotics to enhance plant growth and to control pests and diseases, crop diversification, use of text messaging, sensors to check soil moisture and others.
One very practical idea that could help tomato farmers was entered by the i-Agri Ventures team consisting of agricultural engineers who are taking up their masters at UPLB, namely Job Jonas Ruzgal, Mark Twain Limbo and Jayson Fumera. They have come up with a model of a multi-crop dryer which they will implement in the next three months in a tomato farm in Lumban, Laguna.
Their improved dryer is equipped with automatic sensors to monitor the moisture of the commodity being dried. It is solar-powered but farm wastes such as rice hull can also be used as source of heating when solar power is not available. The focus for this entry is drying tomato to address the problem of oversupply when tomatoes are sold ex-farm at as low as P2 per kilo. In most instances, the farmers would not even care to harvest the fruits and let them rot.
With the multi-crop dryer, the ripe tomatoes could be dried for commercial purposes. Dried tomatoes that are properly dried and packed command a high price in the market. These can be used in preparing a wide variety of dishes. In fact, Mark Twain Limbo says dried tomato is very good for cooking “sinigang.” The dried tomato can also be stored for long periods. Of course, the dryer can also be used to dry other vegetables, fruits and even fish.
The young agriculture engineers have also come up with sensors that can monitor the moisture conditions in the tomato plantation so appropriate measures can be adopted.
The two other finalists are Team Agriviz of the Asian Institute of Management and the Team Oppa of UP Los Baños. Team Agriviz proposed to create an agriculture e-commerce platform that aims to disseminate information to farmers fast. Their “e-magsasaka” business model converts the farmers’ mindset to being market-driven rather than production-driven.
Team Oppa, on the other hand, came out with a technology that uses the very popular text messaging. They have come up with a contraption that makes use of the weather, predicting rain pattern and effectively sends to the farmer farm information in just 30 seconds.
From October to December 31, the three finalists will implement their ideas in their selected farming community. They will use the P150,000 seed money given by East West for the purpose. In January next year, the board of judges will select the Innovation Olympics Grand Champion who will receive a cash prize of P250,000.