The first “smart farm” in the Philippines has been launched in Quezon City under the auspices of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), an agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The “smart farm” is a facility for the Smart Plant Production in Controlled Environments (SPICE), a P128M program that will promote urban farming and high-tech plant conservation. It will be housed at the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute’s Nursery of Indigenous and Endemic Plants in Quezon City.

Partners from UP Diliman and Los Baños with representatives from DOST and DOST-PCIEERD during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Nursery of Indigenous and Endemic Plants at DOST-ASTI in Quezon City.(PCIEERD Photo)

Teaming up to develop the SPICE are the UP Diliman Institute of Biology and Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, and UP Los Baños Institute of Biology.

This program aims to lead the research and development for the design of a stand-alone urban farm system and establish protocols for micropropagation, cryopreservation, and nursery management of rare, endangered, and economically valuable native plant species.

The Lagikway is an indigenous vegetable found in Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The Kapas-kapas is an indigenous vine found in the Ilocos whose fruits are cooked as vegetable – tasty and nutritious.

“The core of this project is not only the development of new technology, but also, on a macro perspective, to ensure that we can protect our country’s rich biodiversity,” DOST Undersecretary for R&D Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara said.

Modern farming methods like vertical farming, micropropagation, cryopreservation, and hydroponics will be practiced to grow native plants in an environment wherein the climate, the lighting, and the irrigation system can be monitored, controlled, and changed real-time through the use of electronics, sensors, and automation.

Lupo is an indigenous “weed” that grows in moist places in Negros Occidental. It is gathered and cooked as vegetable. Photo shows Lupo ready for cooking.

“My idea of internationalization is exporting our own ideas, that foreign scientists will come to the country to study trees that are endemic here. SPICE is an innovation project,” remarked UP Executive Vice President Dr. Teodoro Herbosa.

National Scientist and UP Professor Emeritus, Dr. Edgardo Gomez, shared his experiences in biology and commended the team for initiating the project, saying that “This (SPICE) will be a world-class institute.”

Talakatak is an endemic nut that is little known to many Filipinos. Maybe, the Smart Farm can do something positive about it.

Aside from the technical features of the project, the facility is envisioned to include a “living laboratory” where visitors can see the various technologies employed and store where they can buy fresh vegetables grown on-site. (Science & Technology Media Service Release)

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