In 1990, Mr. Johnny L. Marcos and his family started to farm a 3,500 square meter (m2) farmland in Palegao, Balili, Mankayan, Benguet with romaine and green ice lettuce as their main produce. The initial market is at the La Trinidad Trading Post and Baguio City Hangar market until they were eventually able to penetrate the Live Green Marketing Corporation in Quezon City on December 2013 until today.

Traditionally, the farm watering system is done with the aid of sprinklers. With this practice, the amount of water cannot be precisely regulated resulting to inefficient use of water that is already starting to become scarce. The farm consumed about 600,000 liters of water every cropping covering the farmland area coupled with about 1,228 liters of fuel to pump water from the source, costing them about PhP 81,000.00. Further, this method of uncontrolled and excessive water application is not efficient since it caused soil, fertilizer, applied pesticides, and fungicides runoff. It also increases humidity within the greenhouse, subjecting plants to susceptibility to fungi and bacterial growth not to mention the fact that fertilizer application is time-consuming and laborious as it is done manually.

The disadvantages brought about by the manual watering system and the strong demand for the products led the owner to upgrade its manual watering system to Drip Irrigation System in 2015 through DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). The assistance enabled the farm to improve its productivity and product quality through precise irrigation and fertilizer application system.

“Before, I wasn’t able to finish irrigating my farm within one week. I observed that it [Drip Irrigation System] is six times more effective compared to the traditional way of irrigating my farm,” Mr. Marcos explained.

JLM Farm was the first farm in the community who availed of DOST’s SETUP assistance for the improvement of his farm production systems. It became an initiator and model in the community where other farmers were also encouraged to avail and implement such technology in their farms resulting to five (5) more farms who consequently availed of DOST’s assistance

As Mr. Marcos acknowledges the importance of science, technology and innovation, he applied for Phase 2 of SETUP in 2018 to continually improve their production efficiency. With this, they were able to upgrade the Drip Irrigation System with an automated controller. The system can be set based on a time schedule and will automatically operate and stop at the desired time/duration of irrigation. This automation also resulted to more accurate and efficient distribution of water for specific areas within the specified time, hence, conserving water and labor.

In a bid to further improve its production efficiency, the DOST-CAR thru PSTO-Benguet provided the farm with technology trainings and consultancy.

The JLM Farm had also implemented various innovations to answer current issues on the farm. Aside from the adoption of greenhouse and automated drip irrigation technologies, JLM Farm established a rainwater impounding system to augment water supply for irrigation, among others. Due to the indirect effect of the COVID 19 pandemic and the change in the market demand of the customers, the farm expanded its production and practices to multiple cropping and crop rotation aside from crop programming. With the said practice, integrated pest management was also realized since planting of herbs and other species within the farm helps in pest control. Likewise, the farm was able to learn, innovate and integrate pest and disease control and management aside from minimizing or even eliminating the excessive use of chemical fertilizer, insecticides and fungicides.

Indeed, Mr. Marcos is reaping a thousand-fold what they have sown for their business. To date, JLM farms employs 32 workers, as compared to 11 workers they had before DOST’s intervention. It penetrated five (5) market outlets for his vegetable produce. Through the interventions, the farm was able to increase its annual production volume by 1,325% and its annual gross sales by 1,453%. It was able to reduce water and fuel consumption by at least 20 times or 1900% and reduce physical damage to plants caused by sprinkling to drip irrigation by 93%.

Recently, the farm was conferred as the national winner for 2022 SETUP PRAISE Award as part of the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) celebration in November 2022. The recognition is awarded to an outstanding MSME who has excelled in managing and sustaining their business in terms of Productivity, Resilience, Agility, Innovativeness, Sustainability and Excellence (PRAISE). The firm was likewise conferred the “Sustainability” Award during the awarding ceremony.

Mr. Marcos could not have been more satisfied with the assistance and recognition he got from DOST. “Napakalaking inspirasyon at mas nais ko pang tangkilikin ang paggamit ng teknolohiya upang patuloy na gumanda ang performance ng aking negosyo,” he said.

To give back to the community, the JLM Farm continues to conduct various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities such as donations during calamities nationwide, support to local churches, and other voluntary works. The JLM Farms exercises good leadership roles to workers as it abides to regulations on the provision of right wages, benefits, and free-lodging to workers. Its advocacies also include teaching workers with good farming practices and support to the spiritual needs of workers through weekly gathering and teaching of ethics/values to workers.

What started out in a 3,500 m2 farmland with a manual watering system where only romaine and green ice lettuce were planted, has now expanded into 40,000 m2 farmland with assorted organic leafy vegetables, root crops, and herbs through faith, dedication and innovation.//CDioniso and MFerrer