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Young Filipino agritechs win P50k seed fund

e-Magsasaka is a group of young Filipinos who share the same passion and vision in improving the current state of Philippine agriculture. They are composed of Jose Gabriel Dimalanta, CEO; Aaron Franz David, Head of Operations; Reaiah Joy Sarmiento, Head of Marketing, EJ Tamayo, Business Analyst, and Glenn Bueno, Technical Manager. Through their knowledge, skills, and experience, they are committed to help smallholder farmers in the Philippines.

Here are some of the group’s accomplishments in the past:

  • East West Seed: Innovation Olympics Grand Winner
  • Top 100 Social Enterprise to watch for in Asia 2018 by DBS-NUS
  • Makesense Academy Social Incubation Program Member
  • and Union Bank Agritech Pitch fest 2nd Runner up.

e-Magsasaka aims to improve the profitability of the primary workers in the agriculture sector, by connecting the farmer cooperatives direct to the institutional buyers through the e-Magsasaka Platform. This will help both parties since the farmer cooperatives will be able to sell direct to the institutional buyer at a higher price, with lesser middlemen participation, while the institutional buyers would also benefit as they get to have fresh produce with superior quality, resulting to lower spoilage rate, and better costs for their business.

The Problem: Uneven allocation of profit
The main problem which e-Magsasaka seeks to solve is the uneven allocation of profit in the agriculture value chain. The current scenario leaves the Filipino smallholder farmers to be taken advantage of, as shown by the national poverty statistics wherein they represent the poorest sector in our country.

The main cause of this problem is that Filipino smallholder farmers don’t have direct market access and information and thus, they rely on the local traders and middlemen for the selling of their produce. In this setup, smallholder farmers feel they are undervalued and unimportant in the agriculture value chain as the middleman normally dictates their buying price to the farmers at a very low rate, while they get to sell the produce at a high price in the market. This leads to the uneven allocation of profit, to the disadvantage of the smallholder farmers.

Agriculture in the Philippines is predominantly comprised of smallholder farms as around 81% cultivate in less than 3 ha of land. However, the smallholder farmer sector is also the most prone group to the problem stated, due to their lack of bargaining power in the market. Thus, the potential impact of e-Magsasaka to positively affect the lives of smallholder farmers is definitely huge, as there are about 5 million farmers cultivating the arable land in the Philippines.

With this problem, the country is now losing at least one percent of its agricultural workforce every year, as the youth shun farming more and more due to it being a labor-intensive yet, unprofitable means of living. This is also being reflected in the production side of the value chain as the agriculture sector has seen its contribution to national GDP go down from 20 percent in 1996 to 9 percent in 2016. Thus, we’re now looking at a potential food security issue in the next couple of years as agricultural production goes down while the population of the Philippines continue to increase.

A WIN FOR FARMERS. Aaron Franz David, Head of Operations (4th from L) together with Reaiah Joy Sarmiento, Head of Marketing (5th from L) receives the award with AGREA intern Lorenzo Almario; Cherrie Atilano, AGREA President, Founding Farmer, and CEO; His Excellency David Strachan, New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines; Indradi Soemardjan, Director of Anapana Pte Ltd (Singapore and Indonesia); Ivy Almario, AGREA Board of Director; Johan Janssens, web architect and tech entrepreneur; and Dr. William Dar, President of InangLupa Movement.

Solution: Profitability through direct-market access
e-Magsasaka aims to increase the profitability of our farmers through the direct market access which the platform offers. Quite different from most agriculture e-commerce websites, the approach for e-Magsasaka is B2B wherein the supply of the farmer cooperatives is matched with the volume and quality demand of the institutional buyers such as the hotels, restaurants, caterers, and supermarket businesses.

As majority of farms are small in the Philippines, smallholder farmers are unable to comply with these institutional buyers from a volume standpoint. However, with the farmer cooperative acting as a consolidator of their members produce, they will now be able to serve the desired volume and quality demanded by the institutional buyer market.

Our e-Magsasaka platform enables our farmers to easily check current and historical market prices per crop in major wholesale agricultural trading centers in the Philippines. Also, it is an inventory management tool where farmer cooperatives will be able to oversee the current produce planted by its farmer members together with its estimated harvest dates and lastly, a marketplace wherein they can sell their produce to institutional buyers prior to harvest date. We believe that by being able to sell their produce prior to harvest date, this would reduce the chances of spoilage for the farmer and increase the possibility of it being sold at a higher price.

Target users of the platform are the Agrarian Reform Cooperatives who are specifically planting fruits and vegetables. Initial focus is on the fruits and vegetables subsector due to its highly perishable nature, which makes the farmers more likely to sell their produce to the middleman, a sure buyer, once they harvest their produce. For the pilot communities of e-Magsasaka, we are looking at the 337 Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in Region 3 and 4A as the initial users of the platform due to their relative proximity in Metro Manila, which houses most of the major institutional buyers in the Philippines. That being said, we’re looking to focus on the HORECA and Supermarket concessionaires on the buyer side, due to their noticeable initiative in highlighting the traceability of their produce as well as their evident marketing efforts in promoting their produce as straight from the farm.

Unlike most online agriculture platforms, e-Magsasaka is a business-to-business type of platform. Through this approach, both parties would be more trusting to the other entity as the businesses had already undergone KYC and preliminary evaluation and assessment prior to being given access to the platform. This is e-Magsasaka’s way of ensuring credibility and reliability to the users of the platform. Furthermore, our logistics capability is also a value added service since most farmer cooperatives prefer to have their produce picked up while the buyers would like it to be delivered to them. Thus, the delivery option provided by e-Magsasaka is definitely an opportunity which we can leverage on for faster adoption of the platform.

We will use the Php 50,000 prize money that we will get from Agrea, New Zealand Embassy, and LEAF 2018 for the development of the online platform and field work of going to the farmers and getting their feedback. It will be used mainly to pay for gasoline, toll fees, food, and a website. /e-Magsasaka

ALSO READ:
Young agripreneur leaders bag P50k seed fund

POWERHOUSE PITCH PANEL. Our Young Agripreneurs Pitch contestants presented their agri projects to a global panel of judges: Johan Janssens, web architect and tech entrepreneur; Dr. William Dar, President of InangLupa Movement; Indradi Soemardjan, Director of Anapana Pte Ltd (Singapore and Indonesia); and Ivy Almario, AGREA Board of Director.


Young Agripreneurs Pitch
e-Magsasaka is one of the winning two teams with an innovative project for agriculture at the Young Agripreneurs Pitch Competition during the inaugural Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Forum (LEAF) 2018. The team won Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php 50,000) as agro-enterprise seed fund courtesy of the New Zealand Embassy.

LEAF2018 is presented by AGREA, in partnership with ASEAN Agriculture Summit, Go Negosyo, Forest Foundation Philippines, Corteva Agriscience, New Zealand Embassy, TAEL Partners, Jollibee Group Foundation, San Miguel Corporation, Globe CSR, Landbank, Philippine Airlines, and When in Manila.

Featured Photo:
E-MAGSASAKA. The group aims to improve the profitability of the primary workers in the agriculture sector, by connecting the farmer cooperatives direct to the institutional buyers through our e-Magsasaka Platform.

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