Following the successful introduction of its first pilot cold storage unit in Benguet, Aboitiz Group’s Fresh Depot has launched its second pilot unit at the Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Terminal (NVAT), one of the country’s biggest trading centers located in the Cagayan Valley region. Fresh Depot seeks to contribute to the country’s food sustainability by providing a physical and digital platform for farmers, with cold storage as its springboard.
With Fresh Depot’s innovative pilot unit, farmers and traders can now efficiently store their surplus produce and preserve its freshness until it reaches the market.
This groundbreaking solution aims to significantly reduce food wastage and enhance the food supply chain in the Philippines. Moreover, Fresh Depot seeks to provide value-adding services, such as establishing a comprehensive database that the government can leverage to enhance their agricultural initiatives.
Emilie Sydney-Smith, Aboitiz Equity Ventures Chief Transformation Officer, explained how Fresh Depot can become a game changer for Philippine agriculture. “Filipino farmers face so many challenges, it can be hard to know where to start. When we saw that cold storage technology could prevent around half of their crops from spoiling between harvest and consumption, this was an obvious answer. Getting paid for most, not half, of their production means that farmers will soon be able to invest in other products that can create a virtuous cycle in their prosperity. Digitally tracking the cold storage usage means we can also help the government understand how they can better support farmers.”
Among those present at the launch were Hon. Carlos M. Padilla, Governor of the Province of Nueva Vizcaya; Department of Agriculture Region 2 representative Carol Albay; DTI Region 2 Provincial Representative Dr Marieta B. Salviejo; Bambang Mayor’s office representative Councilor Dr. Arnel Magdirila; municipality of Kayapa representative Valdez Duntugan; NVAT Chairman James Estong, NVAT General Manager Gilbert Cumila, Aboitiz Group Chief Transformation Officer Emilie Sydney-Smith, SN Aboitiz Power President and CEO Joseph Yu, Union Digital Chief Marketing Officer Munmun Nath, and Fresh Depot Agri-FinTech Consultant Arvind Kumar TJ.
NVAT serves as a major vegetable trading hub for farmers, traders, and buyers from different parts of Luzon. It was established and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December 2001. The provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya was the majority stockholder from 2005 to 2013. By 2015, the private sector had gained the majority shares of the corporation. At present, 85.29% of shares are owned by the private sector and the remaining 14.71% of shares are owned by the government.
Cumila, as the general manager of NVAT, is proud to participate in Fresh Depot’s groundbreaking pilot. “We are happy to be collaborating with Aboitiz on Fresh Depot’s pilot program. As part of NVAT and a farmer myself, I see a lot of potential in providing this facility to farmers and traders, enabling them to preserve their fresh produce’s quality before they are brought to the consumption market. This will also open doors to digitize farm data. We are equally committed to make this project a success to help prepare the country’s agricultural sector for the future.”
For its pilot project, Fresh Depot is also collaborating with two leading international agri-tech players: Ecozen Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which is backed by Nuveen Global Impact Fund USA and EXIM Bank of the government of India, and Cropin Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which is backed by Impact Assets Singapore, as one of its investors. Fresh Depot was also one of five global initiatives selected by the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE) to receive free support to test and deploy its Coldtivate app and benefit from its global network. The project aims to combat global supply chain issues, rising inflation, and weather events by maximizing harvests and optimizing food supply.