Eight Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) previous provincial and regional awardees vied for the top 3 spot to level-up their business enterprise, while five (5) state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the region pitch their business model canvases (BMCs) during the YFC Upscale and Intercollegiate competition held at the Department of Agriculture–Cordillera on September 28-29, 2023.
The YFC Program is a part of the department’s thrust under Section 17 of the RA 8435, also known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 to formulate programs for the rural youth to engage in agriculture. The program is spearheaded by the DA-Agribusiness Marketing and Development Service (AMAS) and its regional counterparts. The program encourages the youth to engage in activities related to agriculture, agri-business, and agri-entrepreneurship as agents and partners for sustainable development.
The regional winners namely Shawnie Dale Bitso (Sanagi Mushroom and Agri-tourism Farm), Radjih Andres (Highland Peppers), and Sherly Biase (Ag-kiing, Basilio’s Kiniing) emerged in the top 3 spots of the Upscale competition. The regional winners will receive PhP300,000 financial grant each to implement the upscale of their agribusiness.
Additionally, Bitso, gaining the highest score, will represent the region at the national level and will have a chance to grab a spot in the top 5 national winners and a grant amounting to PhP500,000. When asked how he will inspire the youth to go into farming, Bitso said that he is reaching out to the youth through conducting agriculture-related trainings and seminars, “There is always an opportunity in agriculture,” he said.
The contestants presented their business plans covering the background of their enterprise, challenges and issues, solutions, financial reports, marketing strategy, activities and accomplishments, and product innovations.
Their business plans were judged based on their enterprise’s creativity and innovation (20%), Enterprise Performance (20%), Social Responsibility (20%), Business Viability (20%), and Business Sustainability (20%).
The YFC Enterprise Scaling Up category is a subcomponent of the YFC Upscale component. The said competition is open to all previous YFC awardees who were able to successfully implement their business models based on the monitoring conducted by the YFC regional secretariats, and who are aspiring to scale up its agribusiness operations such as expansion, new technology investment including product development, improve its marketing platforms, and generate employment, among others.
Meanwhile, in the Intercollegiate category, the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC)–Tadian Campus which was represented by Sheimae K. Acab, Sheryl M. Bangcawayan, and Shannon P. Collado had grabbed the coveted spot for the intercollegiate category and will receive PhP150,000 financial grant.
Their enterprise is Golden Shell Gourmet Product. Accordingly, the Golden Apple Snail is one of the pests devastating rice fields which results in low yield. Hence, they decided to make the snail beneficial by processing it into a delicacy. Additionally, it addresses the sustainable development goals of reducing poverty, zero hunger, and good health and well-being.
The intercollegiate category is also one of the expanded coverages of the YFC as a subcomponent of the Start-up category. As agricultural education has been recognized as one of the strategic factors in increasing productivity and human resource development in Philippine agriculture, it still failed to provide a sufficient number of competent and skilled graduates. Thus, the YFC program aims to address this issue through its expanded program. Accordingly, the agri students will be trained to be skilled and knowledgeable agripreneurs and professional farmer business owners.
The YFC Regional Intercollegiate Competition is open to at least a sophomore student of SUCs who are members of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC). The category is only conducted region-wide. As per guidelines, only one (1) level of competition is needed. Each participating SUC shall only endorse one (1) group representative as their official delegate for the competition. The winning enterprise will be granted a P150,000 grant as start-up capital.
During the Intercollegiate competition, DA-CAR OIC-Regional Executive Director (RED) Atty. Jennilyn M. Dawayan expressed her gratitude to the contestants for expressing their ideas in agricultural development by joining the competition, “I am thrilled that these SUCs will be able to pitch their ideas in various forms. We all recognize that universities are breeding grounds for cultivating innovative concepts, and it’s essential to cultivate these ideas so that they can flourish and be refined. Your presence here signifies your commitment to presenting groundbreaking ideas, and I trust that you have invested your utmost effort in preparing for this moment. Consider this competition as a stepping stone; if you’re contemplating further endeavors, such as additional training or similar ventures, see this as the beginning of an exciting journey. Let us prove that agriculture is attractive as agriculture has many forms. Thank you for your active participation. I hope that you will be inspired more by this experience for your future endeavors,” Dawayan is also hoping that the program can be expanded to other universities and colleges with agri-fishery-related courses to gain more perspective for the development of the agriculture sector.
The judges from the private sector, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and DA-CAR also advised all the participants to specifically acquire their Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accreditation, especially for those who are engaging in processing, and other certification/licenses/regulation such as good agricultural practices, good animal husbandry practice, good manufacturing practices, among others.
In closing, AMAD Marketing and Development Section Head Imelda Balaoing commended the participants for their best efforts in joining the YFC program and likewise advised them to continue their passion in agriculture, “You are all winners in your own guide.
Please consider all of the judges’ comments, particularly on innovations, entrepreneurial ability, and social responsibility. This is not the end as the YFC program will continue because you are the future of Philippine agriculture,” she expressed. By CEWaytan