Liliw farmers benefit from digitalization

THE Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Studies and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and AppGeese Inc. have revolutionized farming in Liliw through digitalization.

Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, said AppGeese is a sociotechnoprise pioneering digital agriculture in Laguna since 2020.

He said that three years into the initiative, SEARCA's Emerging Innovation for Growth Department or EIGD conducted a monitoring visit to Liliw to assess the impact of the project on local farmers and agricultural groups.

He said the Liliw Upland Farmers Marketing Cooperative (LUFAMCO) became an integral part of the project under the guidance of Liliw municipal agriculture officer Eunice Decena.

Gregorio added that farmers in Liliw formerly sold their produce individually, limiting their market to the local vicinity before SEARCA and AppGeese introduced digitalization to them.

He said Liliw farmers cultivated a diverse range of vegetables and crops, including cabbage, string beans, chayote and radish.

SEARCA noted that recognizing the potential for market linkage and the robust support structure in the area for farming, LUFAMCO was selected by the project team to participate in piloting a digital agriculture platform.

At the start, only 10 farmer-members underwent a series of activities, including field visits, training in packaging and sorting, and an introduction to digital marketing using the AgriEx application.

AgriEx provides real-time access to buyers, orders and market demand.

Marvin Felices, a farmer coordinator, streamlined communication among LUFAMCO members and was able to guide his fellow farmers in aligning their crops with market trends using AgriEx.

AppGeese facilitated seamless transactions, picking up produce within a day and offering immediate payment through e-money transfer while surpassing prevailing market prices.

With the digital platform, Gregorio said LUFAMCO conducted regular transactions for two years from 2020 to 2022.

The cooperative also attracted attention from other marketing partners, including the Kadiwa Market managed by the Department of Agriculture and Gawad Kalinga, resulting in the expansion of the cooperative's market reach.

Gregorio said the cooperative also diversified its activities with assistance from the Department of Science and Technology, and ventured into producing and selling its own organic fertilizer. LUFAMCO also constructed a multipurpose building in Liliw, generating additional income by renting it out.

Enrico Arvesu, LUFAMCO president, thanked SEARCA for the transformative impact of the project.

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

He said the project opened more opportunities for their group, and online marketing gave them the opportunity to reach more customers beyond their local area. "We truly saw our potential."

"For the municipality of Liliw, this initiative signifies a commitment to embrace opportunities that uplift the livelihood of local farmers," Gregorio said.

The SEARCA director noted that the success of the project has spurred the municipality "to explore further partnerships, with plans in the pipeline to connect their produce to even wider markets, ensuring sustained growth for the agricultural community."