Cracked soil and inflated prices of agricultural commodities, the future of farming was looking grim for the power couple Ar-Jay A. Ballaco (26) of Bacsil Bangui, Ilocos Norte, and Aisha Uddon (26) of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, whose dreams of establishing their own farm are in dire jeopardy of drying out. . .but not all is without hope.

Compassion in their hearts and a community to change, the couple used their separate fields to till the soils of success. Using Ar-Jay Ballaco’s degree in Computer Science to integrate technology into farming, and Aisa Uddon’s background in social work, their goal of establishing their own farm and utilizing technology to ease the burdens of fellow farmers was sprinkled into existence through the “Natural Vegetable Farming Automated Water Drip Irrigation System.”

This power couple advocates for growing crops naturally and automatically through digital agriculture, and so, their enterprise utilizes its solar-powered automated water drip irrigation system to produce natural grown variety of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and pechay. The device has built-in WiFi access, a soil moisture sensor, a soil temperature sensor, a data monitor of moisture and temperature, and an on and off switch for the water pump and irrigation via cellphone control, allowing easy access whenever and wherever. With this device, farmers no longer need to irrigate their crops manually, as the device automatically waters the soil according to the moisture level that is being detected by its sensors. This not only decreases labor costs, the device also sprinkles more assurance that nutrient depletion, water wastage, will not be a problem, leading to the growth of the farmers’ crop production and profit.

Blessings rained their way through their device, which they shared among fellow interested farmers. Offering installation services and the equipment itself, the couple ensured that innovation was not gatekept, and rather offered to farmers at a lower and more affordable price than that of those available in the market.

Water as their ally, the drought drying their dreams seem to turn away, but the weather is ever-changing. Ballaco and Uddon found themselves in the middle of a brewing storm when a lack of finances held them back. What of their dream farm now? Fortunately for them, the digital world was on their side. Just as their moisture of hope is losing, life’s sensors triggered a spray of opportunity when a batchmate mentioned the Young Farmers Challenge Program, followed by Ballaco’s discovery of the Department of Agriculture’s Facebook post. Wasting no time, he immediately inquired.

The sensor rang up alarms, and the couple accepted the challenge just a day before the deadline. With nothing to lose and everything to win, the Natural Vegetable Farming Automated Water Drip Irrigation System was watered with a Php 230,000.00 grant price. Showered with promotions, market linkages, trainings, seminars, financial, and motivational support from the YFC Program, their dream farm grew into fruition, improved further by their automation ideas that turned into reality.

No longer drying out in the drought, their enterprise is as green as their hope in the future of automated agriculture. Spreading the word and sharing their innovation, their irrigation device has reached the attention of schools around Bangui and Pagudpud as they plan to transform their farm into an agricultural learning site in the near future, as well as connecting to other farmers in embracing the digitalization and automation of agriculture.

Nowhere to grow but up, their dream farm is slowly coming to fruition. With a fully constructed farm house and greenhouse equipped with solar panels, a deep well, and water reservoirs, plus the installed automatic water drip system, their 1,260-square-meter farm production area yielded a total of Php 13,000.00 in sales in just the first and second weeks of their harvesting and marketing period through pick-and-pay from individual customers. They are projecting an estimated PHP 40,000.00 after the first month of harvesting. The couple is now planning to establish a vermicomposting section on their farm, and they will also be stepping forward to product development, which involves processing their produced pechay into pechay kimchi and chips.

In the ever-changing weather of life, there will always be harsh sun rays and dark clouds threatening to call rain. One must be ever-ready to hold on when the drought has come, to wait for life’s sensors, and to take the chances when they come flowing. As a last sprinkle of encouragement from this power couple who weathered through, they reminded that farming and agriculture are not low-class jobs; they are careers that not only give profit but are a way of helping the community via food security, and this is what made them thrive as one of the awardees blessed with rains by the Young Farmers Challenge Programs.