Ever since he was a child, Harold Zapata looked up to his grandfather. A traditional farmer, Harold’s lolo would often discourage him from pursuing farming in the future. “Mag-iiinhinyero ka,” Harold’s grandfather would tell him. “Hindi ka magsasaka.” He continues, “Parang tumatak na sa utak niya na talagang ‘pag farmer is farmer lang.“
Knowing all too well the significant role that farmers play in society, Harold decided that he wanted to take the same path his grandfather took. One summer, Harold built his first greenhouse to venture into hydroponics farming, a way of growing plants without soil. Instead, this method uses water as the medium for growing plants. After watching videos about it on YouTube and on social media, he became interested in the method and gathered ideas on how to start a hydroponics business with a small capital.
To save on expenses, Harold asked an acquaintance for used fruit styrofoam boxes, which are normally thrown away. “Starter kit natin yung grape box, yung lalagyan ng prutas sa palengke,” Harold recalls. “Hiningi lang namin yung sampung piraso dito sa kakilala namin, d’on kami nag-try na mag-hydroponics farming.”
Harold also loves how hydroponics farming doesn’t require a lot of investment to get started. In fact, he says it’s even more affordable than traditional farming using water. It also doesn’t require any pesticides as the crops are in an enclosed area. “Napakamura lang ng mga expenses niya,” he shares. “‘Pag nakapag-start ka kasi, gagastusin mo na lang styro cups, coco peat, feeds, saka nutrients. Kahit hydroponics ‘yon, mas tipid siya kumpara sa traditional farming sa tubig.”
“Hydroponics po kasi, ito po ang modern farming o bagong paraan ng pagtatanim,” Harold explains. “Ginagamit natin dito is water; ‘yon po ang nagpo-provide ng hydration at saka yung nutrients po na nakahalo na sa water.”
Harold started with just 80 heads of lettuce until he was able to save up for a bigger greenhouse. Today, he has a 50-square meter greenhouse wherein they can grow up to 500 crops. He is able to earn P15,000 from crops alone, which can be grown and harvested in as little as 40 to 45 days. Apart from the income from the produce, he says hydroponics farmers can also earn by selling seedlings, offering consultation services, and constructing greenhouses.
More than just a business, Harold believes hydroponics farming is also a viable solution as most agricultural land is being converted for residential or commercial use.
“Ito kasing hydroponics is walang pinipiling lugar,” he says. Makapagtanim ka ng halaman sa mabilis lang na crop cycle, magkabit ka lang po ng pipes diyan, basta nandoon ang water at saka nutrients, hangin, sunlight, napaka-flexible po nito.”
He also finds fulfillment in having started a business built on his hobby and passion.
“‘Pag pinasok mo kasi ang hilig mo, may mga bintanang nagbubukas diyan na panibagong opportunity sa ‘yo, another lesson,” he shares. “Hindi lang siya magfo-focus sa farming; marami ka ring matututunan about sa buhay natin.”
To aspiring young entrepreneurs such as himself, Harold cautions them to make sure to do enough research and to take their time throughout the process.
“Siyempre kailangan is pag-aralan natin, hindi lang basta bara ka ng bara,” he says. “Mas bagalan po natin ang proseso, mas napapabilis ho tayo. Mas minamadali ho natin proseso, mas napapatagal ho tayo. ‘Wag na ‘wag ho tayong makakalimot sa Diyos.”
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