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IoT-smart greenhouse hydroponics for lettuce makes its way to farm enterprise

January 20, 2022

The ISAT U and Ephrathah Farms research team composed of (L-R): Hilario S. Taberna Jr. (Project Staff), Engr. Ed Roderick V. Cañuto (Gen. Manager, Ephrathah Farms, Inc.); Vanessa Mae D. Supapo (Project Assistant) and Dr. Renerio S. Mucas (Project Leader) posing on the lettuce produced during the try-out of the developed smart management system for hydroponics in a greenhouse.*

A locally-developed smart greenhouse hydroponics project in Iloilo now benefits a farm enterprise. This project applies the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to automate the monitoring and control of growth parameters for lettuce grown in a nutrient-film-technique (NFT) hydroponics system.

The research team from Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U) led by project leader Dr. Renerio S. Mucas developed the hardware and firmware components and installed and tested them at Ephrathah Farms Inc. in Badiangan, Iloilo City.

“I am beyond satisfied with the system now,” said Engr. Ed Roderick V. Canuto, farm manager of Ephrathah Farms, Inc. He used to visit the farm on early Sunday mornings to handle the tedious work that his farm attendant is doing on weekdays. Now he just needs his mobile phone to check his greenhouse even in the middle of the night.

“I don’t need to go to the farm to decide whether to turn on or not the water cooling system. Everything is controlled with my fingertips. Information is there. During the first run of our production under the automated system, I was surprised having the best production I ever had. I had 250g per lettuce head, I used to be happy with only 60g per head of lettuce. Monitoring the pH and other growth parameters and dosing the right amount of nutrients at the right time gave us consistent production yield.”

Ephrathah Farms used to manually record the microclimate and agronomic parameters essential for lettuce’s growth. Results tend to be inconsistent leading to variable production yields. According to Engr. Canuto, the smart greenhouse minimized labor and made it less tedious for him and his attendant.

The technology is a product of the recently completed project funded through the Science for Change Program-Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy (S4CP-CRADLE) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). DOST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) monitored the project.

During the virtual project terminal review organized by DOST- PCAARRD, Dr. Mucas highlighted the project’s initiatives and significant accomplishments. He described the smart greenhouse hydroponics as equipped with sensors and communication technologies that automatically captures data on essential parameters such as temperature, acidity or pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and water flow. The collected data goes through an IoT platform for monitoring, analysis, and control. Aside from monitoring from a personal computer, the use of Android App enables a farm manager to remotely monitor the system’s status or control specific actuators for water flow, fertigation, and water cooling.

More than this automation, this locally developed control system for smarter greenhouse hydroponics uses low energy requirement and the greenhouse is run and powered by solar energy. Generally, it helps improve efficiency in use of resources and nutrients while optimizing yield gains.

Engr. Canuto hopes that some hydroponics farmers will be able to get hold of this technology because he believes that technology automation can really improve the agriculture sector.* (Ofelia F. Domingo/DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services)

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