Lettuce be! Marikina folk go hydroponic | Inquirer News

Lettuce be! Marikina folk go hydroponic

Residents discover modern, soil-free vegetable gardening
/ 12:47 AM March 25, 2012

Right in the middle of a crowded subdivision in Marikina City is an urban farm where residents regularly harvest a bumper crop of greens even without a patch of soil to till.

It’s possible through hydroponics, homeowners at Twinville Subdivision in Barangay Concepcion Uno proudly explained.

Coined from Greek root words “hydro” (water) and “ponos” (labor), hydroponics refers to an advanced gardening system promoted locally by plant breeding specialists at the University of the Philippines Los Banos, Laguna.


In Twinville, the technology has been producing a regular—and profitable— supply of lettuce since August year. A 700-sq m lot has been transformed into a lush soil-free garden where heads of lettuce grow by the thousands under the tropical sun.


“Look at this. Beautiful, isn’t it? This was once a derelict place,” said Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo who, together with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), introduced hydroponics to the Twinville Homeowners Association Inc. three years ago.

Back then, as Quimbo recalled, residents merely asked him to help clear the vacant lots and abandoned structures in the neighborhood which were often used as hideouts by drug addicts and criminals.

Urbanites can do it

“I asked them: ‘Why not make productive use of this area?’  I saw the technology for the first time in UP Los Baños and found it highly profitable. It only needs the community associations in Marikina to buy into the idea,” he said.

Quimbo noted that hydroponics is suitable for highly urbanized areas like Marikina City which offer little or no space for traditional farming.

After a few seminars and demonstrations, the homeowners cast their early doubts aside and gave it a try, Quimbo said.


Andrew Barit, the association’s treasurer, explained that instead of being grown in garden soil, the plants are cultivated on a bed of spongy peat made of coconut husks and draw nutrients from a “SNAP” solution. Snap stands for Simple Nutrient Addition Program.

A startup capital of P450,000 went into purchase of SNAP solutions and the construction of seedbeds and insulation roofs for the garden. Five residents were tasked to look after the garden, though volunteers were very much welcome.

After only a month, the homeowners were already harvesting different lettuce varieties such as the red rapid, grand rapid, bionda, romaine, lollo rosa, fanfare, and green span.

Rich in antioxidants

The veggies—“antioxidant-rich and pesticide-free”—are sold at P180 per kilo, much cheaper than those sold in public markets and groceries.

But Barit said about 70 percent of their produce already get sold and consumed within Twinville.

“Sometimes you may see worms on the leaves. But we are actually thankful for them because they are signs that our vegetables are fresh. We just remove the worms manually,” he said.

With each planting cycle that takes about 45 days, the homeowners can earn up P20,000. The money goes back to the association’s coffers.

But beyond reaping profits, Twinville residents have also strengthened their “community bond and solidarity” thanks to the lettuce farm, said Manny Manahan, another officer of the homeowners’ association.

“A neighbor, whom we used to see only when she’s on her way to work, now frequently visits the farm. Almost everyone helps in selling and marketing our harvests,” Manahan added.

Among the enthusiastic volunteer gardeners is Des Cleto, a 62-year-old resident and former businesswoman, who was sprinkling water on the lettuce beds when the Inquirer saw the place on Friday.

She said she spends a total of three hours a day in the garden, particularly tending the seedbeds and watering the plants in the morning and afternoon. “I have nothing to do at home and this keeps me busy and fit,” she said.

According to Quimbo, hydroponic gardening can easily be replicated in other residential areas. “Any household can do it. But it requires attention and some space. You need at least a 150 sq m lot to make it profitable,” Quimbo said.

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Two public schools and a neighboring barangay in Marikina have since followed Twinville’s lead. Recently, the Marikina City government also introduced hydroponic gardening as part of its livelihood seminars for low-income residents.

TAGS: Agriculture, Food, Urban Farming, Vegetable

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