Strawberries bring thriving business to Bicol farmer

strawberries1 OCAMPO, Camarines Sur—Leo Libreja, 38, became known for making strawberries thrive and bear fruits in the lowlands under the tropical heat of the sun.

This activity has brought him thriving agribusiness venture in this third-class town, 27 kilometers southeast of Naga City.

Libreja uses organic technology in farming the lowland, tropical strawberry variety he developed from the cuttings he obtained in Hawaii and the Baguio variety to produce crossbreed with more runners (planting materials) that bear bigger fruits.

Developing the crossbreed took a long process of acclimatizing the strawberry to the tropical heat.

From there, he executed cross pollination of the Hawaiian and Baguio varieties to develop the strawberry variety he sells now.

Libreja, an agribusiness graduate of Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (now Central Bicol State University for Agriculture) and a scholar of the Department of Agriculture (DA) at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resource of the University of Hawaii in Minoa from 2003-2005, harnesses his stock knowledge in scientific farming to build his thriving business of producing the lowland- tropical strawberry.

He claimed that the tropical heat allowed the strawberries to fully undergo photosynthesis, which makes the plants bear sweeter and more aromatic strawberries.

Libreja, who ambitioned to be a scientific farmer, experiments and develops farm models of sustainable farming like raising ornamental and food plants and aquaculture in a small area.

After his strawberry sales grew tremendously, he established his strawberry farm in a two-hectare property at the interior part of Pinit, Ocampo, Camarines Sur.

He expanded his production area to meet the demand of ready-to-bear-fruit strawberry plants that is steadily growing with a popular mall now interested in selling his product.

Libreja’s strawberries are ready to bear fruit within 45-60 days, and he is in the process of producing ready-to-bear-fruit plants all year round to make supply of strawberries available here any month of the year.

Libreja said he has innovated on the hydrophonics farming technique he calls “aquaphonics” that uses organic means to grow plants and integrates fish culture to provide nutrients to the plants, and food on the table at the same time.

He said hydrophonics farming uses non-organic based solution to grow plants by means of water.

In their small front yard here, he is developing the prototype of aquaphonics for strawberry and lettuce plants that are grown suspended above water and fed by nutrients of fish wastes.

Using fish tanks made of halved oil drums, he planted without soil strawberry and lettuce in the holes in the pipes placed above the fish tanks.

He uses water drawn from the bottom of the fish tanks where the fish wastes had settled which is conveyed through a hose that feeds the pipe with organic solution to the soilless plants planted just above the water of the fish tank.

Libreja said the success of his experiment will determine the design of his agri-tourism site where clients could pick strawberries suspended above water in the pond, while boating.

Photo by Shubert Ciencia from Nueva Ecija, Philippines [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Shubert Ciencia from Nueva Ecija, Philippines [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
He also dreams of integrating processing of his strawberries like strawberry jam or candies for the tourists who will visit his farm.

He revealed that he is starting to discover how to make strawberries bear fruits irregular in shapes like heart-shaped, square, or multiple edges from the regular cone-shaped strawberry.

In the month of February, he was happily surprised at the result of his timed application of organic foliar during the period the strawberry plants were bearing fruits.

The strawberry plants bore bigger fruits with shapes approximating the shape of the heart.

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