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Lessons From Young Entrepreneurs Leading the Way in Agribusiness

  • by Isa Almazan

Ever thought about starting your own business and forging your own unique path? Maybe you’ve considered opening a food truck or starting a clothing line; but have you thought about starting an agribusiness? I know, I know. The agricultural industry may seem very intimidating, while others think that it’s old fashioned.

In 2015, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture released a statement that there has been a steady decline of 1.5% in enrollment in Agriculture-related courses in the Philippines. This trend can be harmful to a country like ours. With plenty of agricultural resources, disregarding the industry’s natural gifts may result in wasted opportunities.

Through our conversations with the Philippine Agriculture sectors’ inspiring and young business owners, however, we learned about the importance of food security, its role in ensuring a bright future for the country, and how fun it can actually be! Read on about the lessons we can learn about the world of Agribusiness:

  1. SMART LESSON 1: Innovation begins when you look at what’s around you

    Bong and Ted Quemado, Mushroom City https://www.facebook.com/bukidnonmushroomss/

    The Quemado brothers grew up on a farm in Bukidnon and were surrounded by greenery. This kind of upbringing made them realize that there is so much potential and opportunities around them and this is what made them create their social enterprise, Mushroom City, which offers an ingenious take on a fave Filipino snack which is now being enjoyed not only by Filipinos but many foodies around the world. Mushroom City’s Mushroom Chicharon, made of Oyster Mushroom, is loved by many for its natural Chicharon taste sans the cons of normal Chicharon.

    The pair worked on the business wanting to advocate to their fellow youth to see Agriculture in a new and different light. As they have shared with SMART, “kaisa ninyo kami sa misyon na hikayatin ang aming mga ka-henerasyon at mga mas bata sa amin na pasukin ang pagsasaka. Dapat mas innovative at mas Smart!”

    Such as this new product, there are always chances to innovate and create new things if we can only see beyond the things that surround us which go by untapped and unnoticed by many.

  2. SMART LESSON 2: Be proactive and action-oriented

    Milton Razon, Hardinero Farms https://www.facebook.com/hardinerofarms

    Behind Hardinero Farms, is Milton Razon, a 28 year old educator who is focused on familiarizing people of what it means to lean on the agricultural industry. Being a graduate of Food Technology from the University of the Philippines, Milton understands the ins and outs of building an agribusiness. He is actively behind the Digital Farmers Program 101 (DFP101), a literacy program that empowers farmers and youth to adapt to “a digitally-enabled farming environment,” as the Department of Agriculture describes.

    He acknowledges that it can be very tough but his advice is to have patience and be action-oriented. “Agriculture sector is the only sector that is capable of solving rural poverty,” he shares, acknowledging that there is a clear solution to our problems if we only looked in the right direction.

  3. SMART LESSON 3: Invest SMART by investing in something impactful

    Ruel Amparo, Cropital https://www.cropital.com/

    Cropital is a platform that allows you to directly invest in farmers. The beauty of Cropital is it doesn’t only allows the user to grow their money through their investment, but it also makes a direct impact in the life of farmers who are able to have financing that is sustainable and a financing that is both accessible and sustainable. Cropital calls this “impact investing.”

    Today, Cropital is a globally recognized organisation, supported by institutions in the US, Netherlands, Malaysia and the Philippines. One of these organizations is PLDT-Smart, which allows their employees access to directly buy from the rice farmers through the #BuyLocalBuySmart program.

    His advice to the youth who want to get into an agribusiness? “Gamitin natin ang teknolohiya bilang sandata sa mga challenges na kakaharapin natin.” According to Amparo, CEO of Cropital, belief in the agriculture industry is important. This is why their group wanted to synthesize technology and the agri industry into a platform that allows the industry to thrive in the age of digital. So the next time you think of investing, consider to put your money wherein it could really make a difference.

  4. SMART LESSON 4: Begin with your reason and purpose

    Gorby Dimalanta, Bukid Fresh https://bukidfresh.ph/

    Bukid Fresh is an online marketing platform providing access to fresh and organic food to consumers. Co-founder for Bukid Fresh, Gorby Dimalanta, shares that their group aims to aid farmers in their livelihood by allowing them to reach a wider range of buyers. He acknowledges the power of social media as a tool for their business saying that it helped boost Bukid Fresh’s name in people’s consciousness.

    Gorby has always been passionate about food which is why pursuing this business was something that came natural, despite all its challenges. “Start with the Why” is what his advice is to anyone who wants to start an agribusiness because it all starts with your core purpose. He advocates that arduous process of food production; sharing that “Usually, nakikita na lang natin na yung pagkain natin nakahanda na, but the actual food production is not that easy.” Through Bukid Fresh, people can have a deeper appreciation of how food is produced.

  5. SMART LESSON 5: Be an answer to your industry’s problem spots

    Henry Sison, Agro Digital PH https://www.agro-digitalph.com/

    When Agro Digital PH started, Henry Sison, started with the concept of “Value Chain.” With this, he recognized that the prices at which agriculture products are sold must be guarded and valued. Through their website, cooperatives, associations, or even local government units can make themselves available online.

    Sison believes that through Agro Digital PH, we can eradicate devaluation of the products by assigning it a fixed price. He shares, “Maraming Pilipinong magsasaka ang naghihirap. Dapat may makaisip ng paraan upang itama ang mali - to make agriculture fair.”

    He is spot on with his advice to look at what is needed or lacking in the industry you are entering: “Focus on demand and produce what the market needs.” Making fair trade has been the core value of Agro Digital PH, and it has not been an easy journey for Sison. He shares that thus far, “it’s been an exercise of character building. It is a tough industry to prosper but it can be very rewarding.”

    ** Living in 2021, has given us access to technology in a way we haven’t seen in years passed. And with it comes the challenge to look at things around us with a new and fun perspective. Gone are the days wherein farming, cultivation, and agriculture is tagged as “boring”! Yes, the vulnerability of the industry remains true until today; but through some of the young enterprise owners we’ve spoken to, we can see a brand new future for the world agribusiness— one that is filled with pioneering ideas, creativity, and purpose.