PALAWAN National School won the coveted grand prize in the recently concluded “Shell NXplorers: The Bright Ideas Challenge (TBIC)” with a breakthrough project that aims to address the three agricultural problems: surplus, shortage, and supply of produce.
“Team FarmHer Innovators’” leader Anna Leonora Rodriguez said that when they performed ocular surveys around Kadiwa Farms in their province, they found that the challenge of Bayanihan Agri Clusters is that they have the crops, but lacked the means to mobilize as their farms are about 50 kilometers away from the city.
“That’s why we came up with the solution, which is the ‘Mark-It System,’” she told the BusinessMirror on the sidelines of the finals and awarding ceremonies.
Their entry consisted of the “Veggie Crate Tracker” that measures the weight and freshness of produce. For P2,500, the group came up with a mini-model which can accommodate 10 kilos of crops per transaction at the moment. Palawan’s agricultural produce initially tested with their invention are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, cucumber and Baguio beans.
Data from the tracker will be transferred to the cloud-based “Mark-It App” that notifies market vendors about the description of the harvests, while tracking the surplus and shortage in each cluster. Consumers, in turn, can choose which farm to buy from and compare the prices based on the different crops that they offer.
The team developed the app and created its interface with the help of their advisors: the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Palawan International Technology Business Incubator (PITBI).
With the Mark-It System, Rodriguez said the layers of middlemen between the farmer and consumer are reduced. From the usual days to weeks of transactions between the producers and the buyers that affect the quality and price of crops, she noted that the purchase to delivery process now only takes hours, making the produce fresher and cheaper.
“It’s nice that Shell is not only a business; it’s a corporation, and they’re giving back to the community with this competition,” she noted.
“Shell is giving us the chance to express the idea with their funds or with their support. So it gives us the fire, or it feeds our passion to do our best, which also benefits our community,” added team member Jane Abijah Escote.
For team adviser John Lemuel Noche, their project could be income-generating for their school’s students association: “We think that it’s feasible…We will make it a reality so that in the near future, it will be [our school’s] legacy…that’s useful for the community. I am thankful for the Shell NXplorers that provide us an avenue to present our work.”
The Mark-It System is not only an idea, but it’s being mobilized with the support of the Department of Agriculture, City Government of Puerto Princesa, Kadiwa, DOST and PITBI.
Winning the championship title, Team FarmHer Innovators brought home P100,000, while the school received P50,000 for the improvement of the institution’s program on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The five all-female group, which also includes Aleen Leigh Pe, Carmiegh Eunice Bautista and Mary Julianne Ramos, shared that they intend to use the money as a start-up fund and further improve their project.
As part of their plan, Rodriguez revealed that they want to come up with a bigger Veggie Crate Tracker that can hold up to 50 kilos of crops per transaction. What’s more, they are considering adding sensors for further accuracy, global-positioning systems or GPS, and a messaging feature for farmer-to-consumer and farmer-to-farmer chats.
“Per the system itself, we want to add another factor, which is the storage facility, so we won’t stop with the detection of the quality, but also prolonging it,” she continued. “We do plan to expand it since we have many partners. Since we can give it to our school, the next batch can improve it, if they want to, because it’s flexible. Even other provinces can use it also.”
SHELL NXplorers 2023, a platform for young talents to be positive agents of change, gathered 10 teams identified as finalists out of the 30 teams that sent their proposals. Each team focused on solving food, water, and energy problems through innovative projects that are made sustainably.
“We’re trying to meet these human needs. Unfortunately, the way we’ve met those needs in the past have come as a consequence of a negative impact on nature. It means the depletion of resources. And it’s happening now. If you’re now aware, we are seeing a reduction in biodiversity, climate change, and deforestation,” said Paulo Gavino, sustainability manager for Shell Pilipinas Corp.
“The key to sustainability and the dilemma that we have now is, how [does one continue to meet human needs: food, water and energy—while reducing, minimizing and, hopefully, even reversing the negative impact human activity] has on nature. And that’s the challenge that we all have. Based on what we’ve seen now, it gives me a lot of hope and confidence that you will be able to solve this dilemma,” Gavino added.
The other Top 4 student-teams who proposed the most innovative projects that can help solve the country’s issues were “Team Maomag” from Tagbilaran City Science High School in Bohol which won P70,000 with their school also receiving P35,000 as first runner-up for “Project Sawod-Lawod.” “Team Portabio” of Gusa Regional Science High School in Cagayan de Oro received P50,000, and their school also got P25,000, as second runner-up for “PortaBio.”
The other two with the Merit Award were “Team Intellihenyo” from Philippine Science High School-Cagayan Valley Campus in Nueva Vizcaya for their “IntelliOutlet” device, and “Team Thinkerbells” from Puerto Princesa City National Science High School for “Seament: Seashells as Cement Powder.” Each won P20,000.
“To our participants: You are this country’s next generation of scientists and engineers. Equipping yourselves with strength in these subjects is tantamount to possessing the power to change the world,” said Serge Bernal, vice president for corporate relations of Shell Pilipinas Corp. “I look to you to use that strength to become change-makers [who] help the Philippines and the world move forward.”
Since its inception in 2019, Shell NXplorers has trained 1,839 high school students and 269 teachers from 75 schools. This year’s winning teams will present and be part of the Shell NXplorers Student Carnival—the international platform where Filipino STEM students can stand side-by-side with their global counterparts.