ORMOC CITY ― Alongside other outstanding young farmers from the Eastern Visayas region, Judy Dave Buya and Hannah Kaye Cuesta, the proponents of the project “Green Hydro” that has been implemented in Tipik 1, Brgy. San Jose successfully bagged the regional award, under the production category, of the 2022 edition of the Young Farmers Challenge Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The said recognition was given during the regional awarding ceremony held Friday, November 4, at the Madison Park Hotel in Tacloban, while the regional judging took place at the DA-RFO8, Kanhuraw Hill, in the same city.

Mr. Buya, a resident of Brgy. San Jose, is a fresh graduate of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture who specializes in horticulture. Ms. Cuesta, on the other hand, is from Brgy. Curva, is in her junior year in college and studies chemistry. Both are from the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City.

Accordingly, only the representative’s Business Model Canvas (BMC) and a short audio-visual presentation of their chosen business enterprise were shown during the confab before a panel of judges. Anchored on the concept of innovation, this Ormoc-based duo knew exactly what set them apart from other hydroponics enterprises.

“The judges looked for the innovation of your project. On our part, what makes our business innovative is the fact that we make our own nutrient solution, which means lower production costs,” said Buya.

“There was also this judge who said that we have a chance to win [at] the national level, and that remark boosted our confidence. After our presentation, we gave everything to God and just waited for the results to be announced the next day. And we won!” added Cuesta.

As a summary, their nutrient solution is a synthetic, pesticide-free solution that is safe for crops, as the two attested. “We still haven’t researched using purely organic solutions in hydroponics. I think that there has been no research proving that organic nutrient solutions can provide as much nutrition as synthetic solutions do. But we can assure you that it is safe because it is pesticide-free,” Buya explained.

With their recent win at the regional level granting them an additional PHP 150,000, they shared that they would allocate the grant for their expansion and research, especially for their nutrient solution, which is still a work in progress and needs constant upgrade.

Meanwhile, the duo also highlighted the support that the DA had given them through the program, which was not only limited to financial grants but also included providing training and seminars that helped them increase their knowledge on agriculture and the business itself. The help of the City Agriculture Office (CAO) in Ormoc was also rightfully acknowledged.

On the issue of the primary challenges faced by Philippine agriculture, Buya believed that the main enemy of farmers is the climate. Most farmers, he said, are more afraid of climatic changes than pests, insects, and fungus that can infest their crops.

“For Green Hydro, since we are in a protective structure, which is the greenhouse, whether it rains or not, our greenhouse is not affected unless there are major winds or typhoons that can really ruin it. We can control the environment,” Buya explained.

Interestingly, the Young Farmers Challenge program is a competitive financial grant assistance program for the youth who will engage in new agri-fishery enterprises. The grants shall serve as start-up capital for the planned agri-fishery enterprise operated by an individual youth or as a group-managed venture.

It should also be noted that the duo won at the provincial level in August of this year along with other Ormocanon youth farmers, earning them PHP 100,000 to upgrade their structure.

Green Hydro is a soilless medium that promotes the growing of leafy vegetables hydroponically with a reduced risk of soil-borne diseases. They also apply smart technology, such as an improvised misting system for a highly controlled temperature, to maintain the quality of the lettuce. Finally, the Buya and Cuesta duo are set to compete in the national level of the said challenge program and aim to keep their streak going adding, “We want to make our site a demo farm where students can learn about it if we win at the national level. We also want to prove, through this business, that there is money in agriculture and that the youth should get themselves involved, and most importantly, that government support is there.” By Nino Piolo Roto (EV Mail November 7-13, 2022 issue)