Farming can go beyond the premises of growing food for income. To some, it connects them to their roots and jumpstarts their journey toward self-sufficiency. It’s why RJ Z. Seradoy, 44, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Qatar, enjoys farming.
He began his farming journey in 2020 amid the pandemic. He realized the relevance of having a reliable food source and being self-sustaining during uncertain times. Eventually, he turned the free space in their villa into a vegetable garden. Since Qatar has a desert climate, Seradoy had to find the ideal farming method that could allow him to grow fruits and vegetables in tight spaces and at any time of the year.
“I chose hydroponics farming because we have space on our villa’s rooftop, and soil is scarce and expensive in Qatar. Hydroponics allows me to grow vegetables efficiently in a small space, even indoors, and ensures pesticide-free produce,” he told Manila Standard Agriculture.
Besides being suitable for small spaces and being soilless, hydroponics can also help preserve water and create a curated growing environment for plants so farmers or growers can grow specific varieties year-round without having to worry about the weather or pests.
Moreover, hydroponics ensures that the plants receive the nutrients directly in their roots, which helps cut costs usually intended for pesticides and fertilizers.
Several types of hydroponics systems cater to diverse preferences. Seradoy uses one of the most common systems, the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). In this system, the nutrient solution is pumped into channels that can hold several plants. These channels are slightly sloped to allow the nutrient solution to flow through the channel, over the exposed plant roots, and back into the system’s reservoir.
NFT systems work best for plants with a small root system, like leafy greens. Seradoy utilized this setup to grow leafy greens and other produce.
“I usually grow kangkong during summer; pechay, bokchoy, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, chili, and eggplant. I chose these varieties based on their adaptability to hydroponic systems and nutritional value,” the OFW said.
Another advantage of growing produce through hydroponics is securing an abundant harvest. Although Seradoy has yet to weigh how much he harvests annually, he always shares the fruits of his labor with his friends and churchmates.
“The most enjoyable aspect of farming overseas is that it helps alleviate stress and provides a sense of reward and excitement, especially during the harvest. The satisfaction of seeing the fruits of your labor is truly gratifying,” Seradoy said.
While some may find it difficult, Seradoy encourages others to start small and gradually expand their operations as they learn how to grow plants using hydroponics. Once they gain enough knowledge, he believes they can scale their operations and try growing other varieties to diversify their production.
He also shares his progress through his Facebook page, The Ambitious OFW Farmer, to encourage others to start growing their own food and unlock the freedom that comes with being self-sustaining.