TABUK CITY, Kalinga – One of the factors of social development, according to Cris Reshon Guiral, 30, who hails from this city, is to alleviate the hunger that many Filipinos are experiencing, and one way to solve this is to venture into agriculture.
His interest in agriculture started when he saw the vicious cycle of hunger in his job as a social worker at the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“Sa ating experience, nakita natin na marami ang nakaranas ng kagutuman. When it comes to social development, kahit gaano karaming programa ang gobyerno, kapag wala pong pagkain sa hapag-kainan, wala pong mangyayaring pag-unlad. Kaya, ang pag-unlad ay nagsisimula sa sikmura,” Guiral said.
Consequently, this urged him to set up a business he dubbed as the Solar-Powered Urban Fishery High-Density Production Module (Surf-HDPM), a recirculating aquaculture system that he uses to cultivate freshwater fish, notably tilapia. This was also his entry in the annual Young Farmers’ Challenge (YFC) competition of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
This sustainable aquaculture system uses biological filtrations, like coconut husks, charcoal, and gravel, to reuse and oxygenize the pond water. It also uses solar power to lessen electricity consumption since the filtration system voraciously consumes energy. The frequent blackouts in Kalinga also pushed him to opt for solar power.
“In just three hours na hindi mag-circulate ‘yung system, tumataas ‘yung fish mortality kasi naiipon sa tubig ‘yung mga toxic materials like ammonia and fecal matter. With the solar power system, kampante tayo na hindi matitigil ‘yung recirculation ng water at name-maintain natin ‘yung optimal living condition para sa mga isda,” Guiral explained.
Guiral added that the system is almost autonomous, which only requires occasional maintenance on water quality and health of the fingerlings, making this suitable for individuals who do not have enough time to invest in fisheries.
This innovative enterprise caught the attention of the YFC judges and the DA. During the 2nd National Young Farmers Summit and Awarding Ceremony on December 15, at Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, Surf-HDPM ranked first under the production category of the YFC National Level Competition. His business model was also hailed as one of the 12 Outstanding Youth Agribusiness Models in the Philippines.
Guiral is grateful to be one of the winners. He would accordingly spread this blessing to others.
“Sabi ko ‘nung una kahit hindi ako manalo, okay lang. Kasi, at the end of the day, iisa lang naman ang aspiration naming mga young agri-preneurs na makapag-produce ng food for the community that we serve. Kaya sobrang saya ko ‘nung nalaman kong isa ako sa mga nanalo. I am blessed to have this award, and this blessing will be shared with many people,” Guiral expressed.
With this, Guiral continues to encourage the youth to venture into agriculture and to advocate for food security.
“Don’t be discouraged by the things you do not know. Please take it as a challenge to learn, innovate, and develop. I encourage you all to have the same mindset because when the intention is pure and the heart is ready, the Lord will make it happen,” Guiral added.
Guiral is not the only Cordilleran who won in this year’s YFC. Jomarie Mangeg from Benguet (owner of Frugies de Locale) and the group of Josephine Guimangal, Lovely Joy Paddapad, and John Mark Dapping from Ifugao (owners of Am-Iyoung’s Yuyu Farm) were also inducted as YFC national winners.
The winning enterprises bagged P300,000 cash prize each as additional capital to expand their business. Prior to the national competition, they were granted P50,000 (individual category) and P100,000 (group category); and P150,000 when they succeeded at the provincial and regional levels, respectively. That made their grand capital to a whopping P500,000.
When asked what he would do with his cash prize, Guiral revealed that he would further expand the operations of Surf-HDPM. He would start by producing smaller modules for the communities with tight and limited spaces. He would also prototype new technologies, like automatic feeding machines and automated water quality testing. He will also be procuring additional solar power systems.
Through this, Guiral envisions a self-sufficient, self-producing, and food-secure community with a lot of opportunities for social development and progress, especially since the prices of tilapia have been skyrocketing since the pandemic reaching the amount of P280 per kilo, according to Guiral.
In retrospect, he also faced some challenges while setting up his aquaculture system. In his first attempt, he experimented by stocking 70 fingerlings in a miniaturized aquaculture using a drum, and they all died after a week. In fact, he was told that his enterprise would not take off.
“Wala akong alam sa agriculture. I started from scratch. Sinabi nila sa akin ‘imposible ‘yang gagawin mo,’ and I did not believe them. I was discouraged at first, but it didn’t stop there,” Guiral narrated.
Despite his limited knowledge, he tried his best to learn more about aquaculture by gaining experience from other practitioners, aside from scouring for written resources like academic journals and articles.
After learning proper techniques like aeration and filtration, he converted their abandoned piggery (due to the outbreak of African swine fever) into a fish pond in which he stocked 500 fingerlings. Without a hitch, 300 out of the 500 fingerlings survived, and he was able to harvest 40 kilograms of tilapia good enough to share with his neighborhood, who ironically told him initially that his idea would not work.
Their operational costs were minimized because there was no need to transport the tilapias to the market as they were available right in their backyard. Therefore, Guiral can sell tilapias at a lower price, which attracts many customers in their area.
The Kalinga local government unit also saw the possibilities of this endeavor. Thus, one of Guiral’s plans is to establish a learning center to teach the community how to propagate freshwater fish using this technology.
“Nais nating ibahagi ang project na ito sa mga remote areas ng Kalinga na walang malaking lugar para sa palaisdaan. Kung papalarin tayo at mabibigyan ng pagkakataon, nais din nating magtayo ng isang TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) [accredited] school para maging accessible at affordable ang teknolohiya na dine-develop natin,” Guiral explained.
Besides YFC, the DA-Cordillera also gives other assistance to the young agri-preneurs (Yaggies), like the Kadiwa Agribiz Assistance for Youth and OFWs (KAAYO), Youth in Agri-preneurship Program (YAP), Agri-Negosyo (ANYO) Loan Program, Kapital Access for Young Agri-preneurs (KAYA), and Entrepreneurial Mind Setting and Business Plan Development, among others.
YFC aims to encourage the youth to put up ventures in line with agricultural development and food production. The program provides the Yaggies financial aid to support them in starting or continuing agriculture enterprises such as crop and livestock production, fisheries, trading, processing, integrated farming, and agricultural technology.
One Cordilleran, Harry Osboken, already won the very first YFC competition last year. From Baguio City, we own Dalikan’s House of Chili Sauces, which produces chili vinaigrette from habanero and other varieties of chili. By JBPeralta.