Solar Powered Irrigation System: Bringing Rice Production to the Next Level

A Filipino meal isn’t complete without rice on the table thus considering it as one of the staple food in the country. According to the 2018 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization, each Filipino consumes 110 kg of rice every year. That’s a lot of rice, considering that the current population of the Philippines is at 106.6 million.

However, rice farming isn’t easy. Issues like postharvest facilities, pest and diseases, and irrigation affect rice production. In terms of irrigation, it is essential in agriculture because sufficient supply of water is needed to promote plant growth and production.

Rice farming requires a large amount of water for irrigation. So how can farmers get that amount of water for their farms? Some of these farms are even isolated and far from irrigation facilities or other water sources.

The production of this crop generally requires continuous flooding of the field with sufficient water. According to the International Rice Research Institute, it requires an average of 1,432 liters of water to produce 1 kg of rice in an irrigated lowland production.

However, this problem hasn’t been ignored and steps have been taken to alleviate the struggle of the local farmers.

Open Surface Pumps

In the past, the government, together with the Department of Agriculture, has distributed open surface pumps to local farmers that has access to nearby water sources like a river or spring that allows them to irrigate their fields.

However, this machinery greatly affects the farmer’s income since these pumps require diesel fuel to operate. The price of fuel increases from time to time, making it an additional financial burden for the famers.

These pumps also belch smoke which contributes to the production of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that triggers climate change.

The Solar Powered Irrigation System (SPIS)

To address the problem brought about by open surface pumps, the Department of Agriculture introduced the Solar Powered Irrigation System throughout the country. Its four main components are:

  • A set of solar panels – collects solar energy
  • Powerhouse – contains the battery, energy converter, and controller
  • Submersible pumps – draws water from nearby water source and distributes it to serviceable areas or directly into an elevated reservoir
  • Reservoir- provides water supply to the irrigation system and provides stable pressure to make water distribution as uniform as possible

The rice farmers from the town of Montevista, Compostela Valley Province saw a glimpse of hope after receiving the two (2) units of Solar Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) which amounts to 5.9 Million Pesos each, the first ever to be inaugurated in Davao Region funded by the Department of Agriculture- RFO XI under the Rice Program. The new facility was turned over to the San Jose Lowland Farmers Association and P8 Greenfields Farmers Association with a total service area of 111 hectares and 50 hectares, respectively.

In terms of sustainability, SPIS has a lower operation cost in comparison to the open surface pump. Since SPIS harnesses energy from the sun, it replaces the usage of diesel fuel which contributes to the degradation of the environment. This will now open a new window in improving our agricultural ways into more environment-friendly use that is sustainable and affordable to farmers.

 Mr. Alex Sodevilla, president of the San Jose Lowland Farmers Association, thanked the department for installing the SPIS in their town and promised to take good care of it. He added that the machineries will reduce the operating cost in the use of diesel fuels to effectively irrigate their fields most especially during the dry season.

Benefits of SPIS

SPIS greatly reduces operating costs because it utilizes renewable energy. Unlike the open surface pumps which is reliant on diesel fuel, SPIS relies mainly on solar power, which is cost-free and environment friendly.

SPIS helps supply water to farms which are reliant on rain because it is located far from water sources. Farmers don’t have to wait for rain because they already have a steady supply of water. This also results in an increase in production and farm income.

During the dry season, there is limited water supply which can affect plant growth and result to production loss. SPIS remains operational during the dry season, which means that farmers don’t have worry in getting enough water.

Since SPIS doesn’t use diesel fuel, it is environment-friendly. It doesn’t produce smoke with carbon monoxide which is harmful for nature.

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