Joining competitions has its inherent risks and benefits, but the risks should not deter students. In our case, we had returns exceeding the time and effort we invested in it. We’re not just talking about the seed fund we won. For us, winning was just a bonus. There are far more benefits to joining a competition that cannot be compensated by any reward.
The EWS (EastWest Seed) Innovation Olympics held on September 26 to 29 was a 4-day competition, including a 2-day boot camp wherein the qualified teams were mentored by experts in the field of agriculture. The competition’s goal was to increase the productivity and profitability of smallholder vegetable farmers through technology that would improve their lives. Admittedly, it all started as a requirement, since part of our curriculum encourages us to join external competitions. But our team, composed of Aaron, Gorby, and me, shared the same vision to advance the agriculture sector of the country through helping and supporting Filipino farmers.
EWS invited teams from schools in the Greater Manila Area. There were 8 qualified teams and all of them, except us, came from UPLB, which we all know is one of the centers of excellence in the field of agriculture in the Philippines.
The first day was all about introductions – who is EWS and what do they do. Different speakers gave talks on various topics such as sustainability, pitching, and startups on agriculture, among others.
Day 2 & 3
What we learned here is something we will cherish forever. We met the greatest mentors who freely shared with us their knowledge on the nitty gritty of agriculture. These two days enlightened us further on the actual conditions of our farmers. It is quite disheartening to know the realities on the ground despite the contribution of farmers to food production in the country. Furthermore, the lack of financial, technical, and policy support for our farmers hinders them from maximizing their potential for growth and greater productivity. Knowing this painful reality motivated us to help them even more.
We were also trained how to pitch during this period. Despite being trained already at AIM on how to pitch, we took this opportunity to enhance our skills through their feedback.
The last day was devoted to creating the solution and you might be wondering what our proposal was. What our team developed is a way to strengthen the link between the stakeholders in the value chain, including the suppliers, farmers, and buyers. From being a traditional farmer, we wanted to educate and empower the farmers and transform them into modern-day e-magsasaka (“magsasaka” literally means farmer). Through the e-magsasaka platform, we plan to provide them with easy access to resources such as suppliers of agri-inputs, e-learning for best farming practices, and market information for them to be more market-driven rather than production-driven. Our proposal qualified in the second round which was the Question and Answer round and it lasted for 20 minutes. Fortunately, our team made it to the top 3 and we received funding to implement our proposal. Competition was very intense. The other teams’ ideas were also innovative, and they will surely uplift the lives of our farmers, which is why it did not matter to us who will win.
The population of our farmers is ageing and agriculture does not appeal to the younger generation. Hopefully, through our innovation, we would be able to attract the young people who left farming for other professional jobs in the urban areas to return. Finally, we would also like to encourage the members of the AIM community to consider venturing in agribusiness. After all, we won’t be where we are right now without our farmers toiling and laboring to ensure that there is food on our table.
EWS Innovation Olympics comprised of Aiah Sarmiento, Aaron David and Gorby Dimalanta from Master of Science in Innovation & Business 2017.
Words by Aiah Sarmiento (MIB 2017)