The Benguet State University’s Agri-Aqua Technology Business Incubator (BSU-ATBI), in charge of developing microenterprises in the Cordillera region, is now ready to fast-track in upgrading its services for aspiring technopreneurs in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
The acceleration phase will include the development of new markets, study of the socio-economic impact of ATBI to its target clients, enhancement of the skills of the incubatees, and support to the “Agri-Aqua Business Incubation Network of the Philippines, Inc.” or “AABINPhil, Inc.,” the registered corporation of the ATBI program. This phase goes beyond the enhancement of the ATBIs and human resources development.
BSU-ATBI intends to enhance existing business plans by redefining milestones, conduct market matching and business pitching activities, conduct training on upgrading curriculum, supervise the preparation of proposals for funding and pitching to financiers, and provide assistance in total innovation solutions involving STI (science, technology, and innovation) services. It also plans to support the following activities: product, process, and design improvement; business support networking; national market expansion; and national and international networking.
The said institution will formally start its acceleration phase in January 2021 after securing the approval of its proposal in the last quarter of 2020. The first phase of the program wrapped up after its three-year implementation starting in October 2017.
The ATBI program is initiated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) as part of its support to agri-based startups and spinoffs in the country. Currently, the Council supports 16 ATBIs.
From planning to launching a startup
Through BSU-ATBI, DOST-PCAARRD was able to provide agri-based technopreneurs (and/or aspiring ones) technical assistance, product and business development services, marketing assistance, administrative services, linkage and partnership with technical experts and industry specialists, and infrastructure-based services to build their startups and adopt different technologies in crop production and processing, and food processing.
Some of the incubatees enrolled in BSU-ATBI’s incubation program were able to establish their own startup companies. One of these is Baltazar K. Tudayan Jr., who established Yore Sky Garden, adopted the integrated strawberry and high-value vegetable production technology by combining multiple-cropping systems, three-tier vertical farming, drip irrigation/fertigation system, application of soil probiotics, and use of biological control agents (Diadegma sp. and Neoseiulus sp.).
Another incubatee who has successfully launched his startup is Belmor C. Calayon, who established Domo Greensmart Garden. In his startup, he adopted the integrated strawberry and high-value vegetable production technology by combining multiple-cropping system, elevated farming using vinyl-type beds, subsurface irrigation system, use of stingless bee pollinators, and use of biological control agent, Neoseiulus sp.
BSU-ATBI’s efforts in fostering technopreneurship in CAR
Established in 2010, the BSU-ATBI was developed as part of the sustainability plan of the Council’s national program on “Enhancing the Demand for AFNR Graduates through Science and Technology.” It aimed to create the conditions for socio-economic growth and opportunity for smallholder farmers, food processors, and vendors by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity. Its lone goal was to help increase the income and improve standard of living of its target clients.
With BSU laying the foundation of technopreneurship in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), DOST-PCAARRD strengthened its efforts by implementing the project, “DOST-PCAARRD-BSU Agriculture and Food Technology Business Incubator” under the “DOST-PCAARRD ATBI Program” in 2017. BSU-ATBI’s project leader, Dr. Ruth C. Diego, likewise served as program leader.
The BSU-ATBI framework is anchored in microenterprise development and student entrepreneurship advocacy. Likewise, it has three interrelated components – farming, food processing, and marketing.
In the three-year project implementation, it has accomplished the following:
· Strengthened ATBI and Food Innovation Center in La Trinidad, Benguet;
· Developed ATBI operations manual and business manual;
· Developed two ATBI curricula;
· Developed three training modules and six technopreneurship manuals;
· Mentored 18 incubatees;
· Accepted 30 pre-incubatees;
· Trained 457 clients in crop production, food processing, and entrepreneurship;
· Conducted a national conference and four national trainings; and
· Established the Agri-Aqua Business Incubation Network of the Philippines, Inc. (AABINPhil, Inc.)
Assisting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic
As part of BSU-ATBI’s efforts to assist nearby communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, fruits and vegetables were distributed to more or less 3,000 households in the Benguet and La Union.
The team has also provided hospitals, communities, and households with healthier food options such as tomatoes, eggplants, kinchay, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, and strawberries. Under the overall leadership of former BSU President Dr. Feliciano G. Calora, Jr., Dr. Diego led the relief efforts (John Christopher M. Polinar, Kariza M. Geminiano, DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services).