AN e-magsasaka platform that envisions to lead Filipino farmers into the digital age and online marketing and to convert farmers into agri-preneurs won the championship and a P250,000 cash prize for Team Agriviz of the Asian Institute of Management at East-West Seed’s Innovation Olympics Finals held at the 8 Waves Waterpark and Hotel in Baliuag, Bulacan.
Team Agriviz, composed of Aiah Sarmiento, Gorby Dimalanta, Aaron David and mentored by East-West Seed’s Downstream Marketing Manager Dexter Difuntorum, takes pride in their e-magsasaka online platform, which hopes to address two of the major problems of Filipino farmers: Lack of direct access and lack of market information between buyers and growers.
The e-magsasaka online platform hopes to minimize the involvement of middlemen, which would increase the farmers’ revenue by at least 20 percent and keep the prices of vegetables more affordable for the consumers. The platform would have a database where buyers could find the farmers that could provide the produce they need. At the same time, the farmers could also use the database to find the market to sell their produce.
During the six-month pilot stage, Team Agriviz worked with farmers’ cooperatives, local government units and vegetable buyers to ensure the e-magsasaka platform would significantly benefit the entire ecosystem of vegetable production.
Team Agriviz bested two other student groups—Team Pocket Farm and Team i-Agri Ventures, both from University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños.
Team Pocket Farm composed of Vince Maningas and Arvin Garcia was mentored by East-West Seed’s project manager, Martin Hinlo. The team thought of using the cell phone as a tool to help the farmers in determining the moisture level of their farm lands and prompt them through text messages on when to water their vegetables and how much water their plants need.
Intelligent sensors that assess the moisture content of the farms are linked to the farmers’ cell phone and trigger the prompt.
Claiming 80 percent to 90 percent accuracy in determining moisture content, the Pocket Farm device hopes to address the oftentimes erratic system of farm irrigation, a major factor in vegetable production.
Team Pocket Farm piloted their device in petchay farms in Los Baños and Calamba and are hopeful that their gadget could help increase farmers’ produce by as much as 40 percent to 50 percent.
Team Pocket Farm received the East-West Seed Employees’ Choice Special Award for their concept.
Team i-Agri Ventures came up with a solar-powered multicrop dryer that could significantly cuts postharvest loss and create new markets for vegetable farmers.
Zeroing in on the irony specific to tomato growing where there is an oversupply of fresh tomatoes during peak season and, as a result, price plummets down from P15 per kilo to P5 per kilo.
Team i-Agri Ventures, composed of Jonas Ruzgal, Jayson Fumera, and Mark Limbo from UP Los Baños, hopes to address this problem through their multicrop dryer, effectively converting excess fresh tomatoes to sun-dried tomatoes and creating an alternative way for farmers to sell their produce.
Team i-Agri Ventures mentor Arthur Cabacungan said most tomato growers do not have any storage facility and are, thus, forced to sell their excess produce at more than 80 percent less its actual value. However, with their solar-operated dryer, farmers get to convert their excess produce to dried tomatoes catering to a different market like hotels, restaurants and caterers who are keen on using sun-dried tomatoes as replacement for fresh tomatoes.
Team i-Agri Ventures is optimistic their multicrop dryer could help hike farmers’ revenue by as much as 30 percent.
Innovation Olympics 2017 was launched as part of the East-West Seed’s 35th anniversary last year with the theme “Growing Opportunities.” East-West Seed, founded in 1982 by Dutch seedsman Simon Groot and Filipino seed trader Benito Domingo, is the first integrated vegetable company in the Philippines and one of the 10 biggest tropical vegetable-seed producers in the world.
“One of the major pillars of East-West Seed is learning and innovation. And so far, we have trained and enabled close to 50,000 smallholder farmers on proper vegetable farming techniques,” said Henk Hermans, East-West Seed Philippines general manager. Innovation Olympics, he added, is a manifestation of East-West Seed’s commitment to address the two biggest problems facing vegetable farmers in the Philippines.
“Farmers represent the second-poorest sector in the Philippines. This sad reality results in our young people’s disenchantment of pursuing a career in agriculture. The average age of Filipino farmers is 57 years to 59 years old, that is why we have to inspire our youth to discover the beauty of farming. We at East-West Seed know that there is money in vegetable farming, and it could be a solid route in improving the lives of our people. Another problem is that farming practices in the Philippines are outdated, and the majority of our farmers are reluctant to use technology in farming making their work labor intensive and unsustainable,” Hermans said.
Through the Innovation Olympics, East-West Seed hopes to harness the minds of the youth to come up with their own innovative technological intervention. Students from different multiple backgrounds come up with sustainable solutions to improve productivity in vegetable farming, effectively addressing two major farming concerns: integration of technological innovations to improve vegetable production and to inspire the youth to consider farming as a professional goal and be ambassadors of modern-day agriculture.