The garage farmer: tackling food insecurity in the Philippines

Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out early in 2020, urban gardening became prevalent in cities and provinces because consumers saw this as a productive way to spend their time in quarantine.

Jorem Catilo, a photographer and graphic designer by profession, is among the many urban gardeners who decided to grow food during the pandemic. But like the many city folks, he did not have the proper conditions to start gardening. He started browsing through YouTube and got the idea of using hydroponics to make his urban gardening dream possible. After seeing a video on aeroponics, he sought another way to replicate this agricultural method, leading him to hydroponics. 

After seeing that several farms in the Philippines practice hydroponics, Catilo began researching how he could do the same at home, specifically, in his garage. His research included watching videos on the topic and joining local hydroponics groups. One group was led by people from the University of the Philippines Los BaƱos, who developed a locally-made nutrient solution called SNAP. Catilo found the group to be helpful because they also provided online workshops where he learned the basics to create a hydroponics setup at home. 

The first location was at the front of their house. Unfortunately, it did not bear good results since the greens remained small and only weighed a few grams, and Catilo decided to intensify his efforts and switch to a more advanced setup that uses pumps. Around this time, major hardware stores were reopening, allowing Catilo to buy the materials he needed.

According to Catilo, his farm is focused on producing different varieties of greens, including lettuce, arugula, as well as local greens like pechay and mustasa, but because the pechay and mustasa had a lower selling price compared to lettuce and arugula, he decided to focus more on the higher-value crops.

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