Aug 11, 2021
5 Vertical Farms To Look Out For In The Philippines
Heavy monsoons. Fierce typhoons. Severe earthquakes and floods. Reduced soil fertility. Record-high temperatures. And, a water crisis. These are some of the many reasons why the Filipino agricultural system is in grave danger.
Droughts and reduced rainfall lead to increased pest infestations that damage crops. Rising sea levels increase salinity which leads to a loss of arable land and irrigation water.
From 2006 to 2013, the Philippines experienced a total of 75 disasters that cost the agricultural sector $3.8 billion in loss and damages.
According to FAO, the Philippines has one of the most vulnerable agricultural systems in the world. As a disaster-prone country, it has limited means to ensure a secure food system for its inhabitants.
Even though the country successfully produces and exports rice, wheat, and corn, accounting for over 67% of the cultivated land, it is soon to see reduced yields from heat and water stressors that are further aggravated by climate change.
Agriculture employed 33% of the Philippines’ working population and generated 13% of the country's GDP in 2009. Today, it employs less than 23% of the population.
To further complicate this concern, a history of religious conflict in the country has led to the displacement of agriculture-dependent families, which further imposes limitations on their sources of income and food.
Vertical Farming In The Philippines
With their ever-increasing food insecurity concerns, the Filipino government has been making an active effort to employ urban agricultural tools to their benefit.
For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Filipino government passed a bill for the conversion of idle lands and the use of other open spaces in urban areas in the country into community gardening sites.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senator of the Philippines, also filed Senate Bill (SB) 257, the Urban Agriculture and Vertical Farming Act of 2019, which also aims to address urban environment management. He says that “aside from the joy of savings in grocery bills, there’s also joy in harvesting and eating your own produce.”
As part of their strategy, the Filipino Department of Agriculture has identified 18 key strategies to tackle the country’s food insecurity. A key part of this is the National Research, Development and Extension (RDE) Network for Urban Agriculture Program in the Philippines, which includes “the development of appropriate crop production techniques including vertical agriculture, hydroponics, bio-intensive gardening and greenhouse farming suited for urban settings.”
The government is also encouraging “technology and innovation including digital agriculture.” This includes the use of data analytics and “automated systems [that] will improve farm productivity and cut waste by using analytics to facilitate data-driven farming practices for small farmers.”
Here are 5 vertical farms leading the change in the Philippines:
#1: NXTLVL Farms
Former Agritecture client, NXTLVL Farms, is the pioneer and leading indoor urban farm in the Philippines. With farms in Metro Manila, this company is able to grow nutritious leafy greens as close to their consumers as possible “with the guarantee of no bad leaves or waste on delivery.”
Through working with Agritecture on their farm design and HVAC design, NXTLVL was able to establish fully-enclosed, containerized indoor hydroponic farms that deliver fresh greens “within 24 hours of harvesting.” Their repurposed 40ft containers are “outfitted with hydroponic growing equipment and hardware.”
The company additionally boasts their local presence: “We grow locally. We develop our own technology locally. We create our own farms locally. We're Local. We're 100% Filipino owned.”
#2: Urban Roots
Urban Roots has established an indoor, hydroponic farm and a greenhouse growing microgreens, lettuce, strawberries, and other unique leafy vegetables in the heart of Metro Manila. This 280 sqm farm is built inside a retrofitted garage, delivering primarily to diet-food delivery companies, a juicing company, culinary schools, and consumers who order weekly.
With their inception only 3 years ago, Urban Roots hopes to build indoor farms throughout the city. Martin Escalona, the founder of Urban Roots, says that they decided to grow and sell microgreens because “there are only a few farms that sell [microgreens] commercially [in the Philippines], and demand is picking up.”
#3: Good Greens and Co.
After identifying “a need for the Philippines to set up more vertical farming facilities in urban cities to address hunger among poor Filipinos,” the Filipino agriculture and logistics firm Delgado Brothers Group decided to establish their own vertical farm, Good Greens and Co., in 2018.
“With the controlled environment of vertical farming facilities and the limited space it takes up, we can ensure that we provide safe, affordable, and accessible food to Filipinos even in urban areas,” Good Greens and Co. Director of Research and Development Erez Lugassi said.
With a mission of bringing “farm fresh, high-quality produce into urban communities,” this company is “building vertical farms directly in the communities that need it the most.” They say that “by cutting out the middlemen in the farm-to-table process, we are able to provide consistently fresh and high-quality produce at lower prices, giving you [customers] a chance to enjoy everyday greens without breaking the bank.”
#4: Navotas City Vertical Farm
Alongside Good Greens & Co., the National Capital Region's Navotas City Council unveiled the tallest aeroponic vertical farm in the country. The four-tower farm stands on a 300sqm area in the Tanza resettlement community.
The aim of the farm is to supply residents with a sufficient and sustainable food source in as little land as possible. Navotas Congressman John Rey Tiangco said “vertical farming maximizes the land area as Navotas is one of the smallest cities in terms of land.”
The farm features four tower greenhouses, the construction of which was financed by BSP-Navotas and Good Greens.
#5: Urban Greens
Ralph Becker, CEO and Founder of Urban Greens, says that the Philippines’ “climate is not ideal for some specific vegetable cultivation because of the extreme heat, torrential typhoons and other natural disasters. Consistency of supply gets easily interrupted due to tropical storms, which is both bad for the farmer and for those who rely on it.” Because of this, Urban Greens built a warehouse farm as a pilot model for more farms.
Ralph adds that the company wants “to inspire visitors by showing the possibilities of these new farming models. After all, we need young farmers to come into the industry. The younger generation isn’t that interested in farming because of the hard labor and low wages. We want to prove them wrong by showing that farming can be lucrative and modern too.”