Accelerating food self-sufficiency: Integrating technology in local farming 

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    Instead of simply zeroing in on ideas, Filipino startup accelerator Eurekloud believes in investing more in the founders of ideas that can change the world.

    Sixty: the average age of a Filipino farmer. When entrepreneur VJ Africa saw this fact emblazoned on a billboard along Roxas Boulevard, next to a picture of a weary old man toiling the fields, he knew something had to be done. Years later, he came together with his partner co-founders Reuben Ravago and Paolo Delgado with a mission: reintroduce farming to a younger audience and spearhead agri-technology in the Philippines.

    Africa, Ravago, and Delgado are the core partners behind the startup accelerator Eurekloud. Differentiating themselves from other ventures with a single focus, Eurekloud provides startup founders with both cash and non-cash aid. Support mechanisms from the ground up range from back-office support, human resources, office space, and mentorship.

    One of Eurekloud’s investments touches on fintech. Their real estate remittance innovation is enjoyed through the integrated solutions platform Qwikwire. They hope to achieve the same level of success in the agriculture industry.

    Despite having worked with numerous startups, Eurekloud continues to seek out ventures that aim to tackle long-standing issues in the sector: land shortage, tumultuous weather conditions, and importation of foreign products.

    “The situation of Filipino farmers is something that concerns all of us. Who will be growing our food when all our farmers are gone?”, said Ravago. “Conditions continue to be unfavorable for them—their situation keeps them from meeting market demand and weathering through disasters. Many farmers are wading through so much debt and liabilities trying to keep themselves afloat.”

    Eurekloud, however, remains optimistic amidst the daunting situation. “Here in the Philippines, we are spoilt with problems that can be turned into opportunities. We want to help farmers and communities by providing them with the tools and technology,” shared Africa.

    While Eurekloud is looking for full-circle idea executions and better timings for investments, they want to partner with the right people with the right tech.

    “We believe in looking for the right people to partner with. We want to look at the challenge as not rooted in the size of the land, but about maximizing productivity and efficiency,” Ravago added.

    No way to go but up

    One of the company’s success stories is the research and development of Good Greens and Co., the vertical farming arm of Delbros. Since its inception in 2018, Good Greens has been able to generate more than 7,000 kilograms of produce grown in urban areas.

    With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the solutions for contactless and online transactions offered by agile startups into the forefront, Eurekloud believes there is an equal amount of potential for agritech solutions to come into play.

    “The pandemic has ushered in the growth of a home-based economy. To combat food shortage, plague, and storms, we maintain self-sufficiency by planting vertically.” Africa said.

    As lockdowns spurred the interest of city-dwellers for vegetation in their own backyards, Eurekloud sees an opportunity to make everyone a modern farmer through vertical farming. Realized through the capabilities of Good Greens and Co., local communities can now grow vegetables for consumption in a controlled environment. The vertical farms in Pampanga are a testament to this innovation.

    Farming for the future

    As the agriculture industry posts a 1.2 percent decline in the first quarter of the year, plagued by difficulties in deliveries, physical distancing protocols, and border security, Eurekloud intends to go further by bringing in technologies within ASEAN and beyond adaptable to Philippine agricultural needs.

    At present, Eurekloud believes Good Greens and Co. is an exemplary model for public, private, communities, and experts in the field at work. Keeping their ears to the ground, Eurekloud continues to listen in on multiple pitches to single out more ideas like Good Greens and Co.

    “For example, food printing sounds like an idea straight out of sci-fi, but more than ever, the pandemic has made an expansion to the digital space a critical component for startup growth.” Africa shared.

    On the side of human resources, Ravago sees opportunities on the horizon for agritech and startups in the strengthened partnership between the private and public sectors. “Enrolling people in courses by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) maximizes the reach and potential of urban farming.”

    In the next five years, Eurekloud sets its sights on expanding Good Greens and Co. in major cities across the country. The company indicates healthy investments in agri-tech, mapping partnerships with more startups and visionary leaders with innovations emerging from the pandemic.

    “At the end of the day, it is all about the right partnership with people who understand the technology, farming, and willing communities. We are always on the lookout for ways to accelerate startups and their ideas to the next level.” Africa concluded.

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