Filipino turns hobby into business

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Daisy

A Filipino resident is turning a productive hobby he learned during his stay in Qatar into a lucrative business back in his home country.

After working as a firefighter in Qatar for seven years, Kian Castaneda (pictured) is determined to go back to his hometown in the Philippines for good. His plan: to put up a hydroponics farm business, a favourite pastime he started years back which later turned into a passion.

It all began in early 2010 when Castaneda stumbled upon an article published in The Peninsula about a Filipino hydroponics hobbyist Angelo Ramos who had turned the tiny entrance to his flat into a soilless garden with over a hundred edible vegetables.

“I have already developed keen interest in farming when I was a child and upon reading the article, I started to do research since I thought it would be a good alternative since in hydroponics, you can grow plants anywhere without soil and even with limited space,” he told this daily.

It took him a year to study and experiment on the method but it became easy when he met Ramos who provided him very helpful tips, he related.

“I later joined him in conducting seminars. We also have a Facebook group where we connect with other hydroponics enthusiasts, making it easier for them to begin their setup compared several years ago when I was starting,” he said.

With over 400 members, the Facebook group called Pinoy Hydroponics Qatar has been generating interest among green thumbs wishing to continue their passion in gardening in the absence of a patch of land to farm.

Compared to traditional farming, hydroponics is cheap, requires very small area and less labour, but in terms of yield, it can produce two to three times than traditional farming method making it a very lucrative business.

“When I go back to the Philippines in March, this is the first thing that I’m planning to start doing. In the province where I come from, there are already many restaurants, in fact we have ventured into it as our family business. But it is hard to find certain herbs like basil available in another city,” he explained.

“No one in our place has ventured into hydroponics business and that’s why it has potential. There is a market for it, that’s why I will really make a business out of it. My wife will focus on our restaurant while I take care of the farm,” he added.

One benefit of hydroponics is that plants can thrive even during hot weather since they can be set up conveniently inside the house, with the help of light bulbs to replicate adequate sunlight needed by the plants, making it an ideal agricultural method in a country with very hot climatic conditions like Qatar.

Vegetable seeds and nutrients are available in Qatari market. Other materials can be improvised such as styrofoam fruit crates, food trays and cups used as breeding ground for the vegetables, said Castaneda.

Almost all kinds of vegetables can be grown using hydroponics but Castaneda cultivates those which are easy to grow such as bok choy, lettuce, celery and capsicum. (Source)