NVSU and UM teams bag top Innovation Olympics 2.0 prize

The Automated Irrigation and Nutrient Management (Airin) system of the Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) students, and the Project Angat of Team Alipugpug Tech Solutions of the University of Mindanao students bagged the top prize in the Innovation Olympics 2.0 (IO 2.0), a nationwide agri-hackathon for young Filipinos, a news release said.

The competition provided an avenue and opportunity for the students to develop and showcase innovative solutions that can help smallholder vegetable farmers.

With the theme, “Precision agriculture for small-scale vegetable farming,” IO 2.0 focused on finding new solutions that can help increase the profitability of smallholder farmers through efficient technologies in crop production.

After months of rigorous work, the winning teams’ distinctive innovative solutions bested the other four finalists for the IO 2.0 top spot.

Their technology solutions can enable smallholder vegetable farmers to automate their nutrient management process, minimize labor cost, and connect directly with consumers to improve their margins, yield, and livelihood.

The six finalists were selected from  21  participating teams composed of undergraduate and graduate students from universities across the country.

Each finalist received P100,000 as seed money for actual testing and implementation of their technology solutions over the course of several months.

The Airin system of the NVSU students helps farmers minimize labor cost by only applying the right amount of fertilizer at the right time and in the right place.

The technology allows farmers get a solar-powered synergistic system with fully automated irrigation and fertigation systems that monitor farm status and send updates via text messaging.

This allows vegetable farmers to better understand their farm conditions and respond with correct amendment solutions.

“Our effort comes from the love of the Filipino farmer community. Being sons and daughters of farmers, we know the challenges that they face and this is where our inspiration comes from. It is our passion and purpose to help improve the lives of farmers so they will never have to worry about putting food to the table,” said Myka Fragata in her victory speech.

With her on Team Airin are Jaime Hapicio and Maricel Farro.

Project Angat created a farming system with three components, namely, Malakas, Maganda and Dumangan.

Malakas is an automated solar-powered vertical farming system made of bamboo. Maganda is a water-soluble capsule with formulated organic waste materials that stimulate plant growth and protect against diseases. Dumangan is an online platform that connects the farmers directly to consumers.

With this system, vegetable farming will become more convenient and profitable by allowing farmers to access farming inputs and markets for their produce.

“Even if we faced a lot of problems and difficulties during the Innovation Olympics, this is now our victory for Project Angat of Team Alipugpug Tech Solution… Let us all continue in our journey in uplifting the lives of small-scale farmers and never stop planting the seeds of change,” said Elpidio Corbeta Jr. when his team was announced as one of the grand prize winners.

With him in Project Angat are Daniel Navarro, Stephen Ponteras, John Taylaran, Kim Tomaro, and Dale Viñalon.

Each of tthe winning teams took home P250,000 grand prize that will help them further develop their technology solutions and pursue their passion in helping smallholder vegetable farmers.

IO 2.0 was made possible by the collaboration of East-West Seed; the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca); Sensient Colors LLC; and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) through the UPLB-Technology Transfer and Business Development Office, UPLB Startup Innovation and Business Opportunity Linkaging Labs, and Apex: The UPLB Business Network.

“To our six grand finalists, congratulations. You all deserved recognition for making it this far. We sincerely admire your passion for innovation and your drive to make things happen,” said Henk Herman, general manager of East-West Seed Philippines.

“As your Innovation Olympic journey ends, a new journey in real world will begin. We encourage you to keep your great perseverance and continue to further develop your projects. It’s been a great pleasure and honor at East-West Seed to support talented young innovators like you who share the same goal of empowering our farmers and transforming the agriculture industry,”  Herman added.

Despite the pandemic, the IO 2.0 projects provided an optimistic future for the Philippines’ agriculture sector. They demonstrated that leveraging technology and combining it with farming skills can provide greater results and improvement in the farming industry.

Two teams from the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) in Cagayan de Oro were among the six finalists. One USTP team developed BalZip, a cable-suspended drone for farm monitoring and efficient fertilizer and pesticide distribution.

The other USTP team created Chlomet, a low-cost and automated chlorophyll meter device that can provide the exact data on chlorophyll and nitrogen content of the leaves of a plant to help farmers create and apply data-driven decisions with minimal costs.

One of the other finalists developed Archie, a ground robot for precision and judicious pest control developed by a team of students from Saint Louis University, University of Baguio, and University of the Cordilleras.

Meanwhile, a team of Asian Institute of Management students created the FarmJuan Management System, a set of technologies to help monitor, analyze, and prescribe appropriate actions to increase the quality and quantity of farm yield while optimizing operational and input costs.

“To our crazy finalists who have crazy youthful ideas, you all hold the future of agriculture,” said Searca  Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio,  a member of the panel of judges.

“May you continue to step up by taking on this challenge in helping our farmers despite the pandemic. May we never forget to put the human and social aspect in our innovations to help improve our agriculture industry,”  Gregorio said.