Digitalization aids Laguna town farmers in boosting agri sector

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna (PIA) — A digital platform launched by the Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Studies and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and AppGeese Inc., a Philippine socio-technoprise company, continues to make headway in assisting farmers in Liliw, Laguna access broader markets.

For much of our country's history, Filipino farmers like the crop growers of Liliw Upland Farmers Marketing Cooperative (LUFAMCO), tend to operate as individuals. Despite belonging to a cooperative, farmers sold their produce individually and restricted their market within their town's vicinity or to neighboring communities.

In 2020, the LUFAMCO members, with the help of the Municipal Agriculture Office of Liliw, recognized the potential of digital agriculture platforms as an opportunity to expand the market of farmers.

The digital collaboration began with 10 farmers, where the cooperative participated in a series of learning activities, including field visits, training in packaging and sorting, and an introduction to digital marketing using the AgriEx application.

Through the AgriEx, farmers were given real-time access to buyers, orders, and market demand, enabling them to guide fellow farmers in aligning their crops with current market trends.

Benefits of the project include seamless transactions, ensuring scheduled pick-ups within a day and offering immediate payment through e-money transfer, competitive or even surpassing prevailing market prices.

SEARCA Center director Dr. Glenn Gregorio said the digital agriculture project enhanced the well-being of local farmers to reach more consumers.

"Through this successful initiative, it has motivated the municipality to actively seek collaborations, with plans to extend their agricultural produce to broader markets to sustain the growth of the farming community," said Gregorio.

LUFAMCO President Enrico Arvesu said their cooperative is grateful to the local government and the non-profit organizations who helped them diversify the Liliw's agriculture industry.

"We are very thankful to be identified in this kind of project that helped us appreciate the importance of planning and consolidation of our produce to reach a wider market," Arvesu said.

In over two years since the project's implementation, LUFAMCO produces and sells its own organic fertilizer, with the support from the Department of Science and Technology.

The cooperative has also been a constant partner of the Department of Agriculture in its Kadiwa ng Pangulo project, and also collaborated with Gawad Kalinga for other farm-to-market initiaves. The cooperative also managed to construct a multipurpose building within the Liliw town proper and has been generating extra income through rentals.

"This opens more opportunities for our group, and online marketing gives us the opportunity to reach more customers beyond our local area. We truly saw our potential," Arvesu added.