Agriculture is an important sector in the Philippines as it provides the country with a steady food supply and also plenty of the raw materials used in industries come from it. However, the farmers of developing countries like the Philippines are an aging group, with more elderly than youth to replace them. This presents a danger as the elderly are unsuited for continuing such a labor intensive job for years. The youth are also more interested in moving to urban areas to look for work rather than staying in the rural areas to work on farms or other jobs in their villages. Unfortunately, because urban areas attract youth from the surrounding rural areas, they face severe competition leaving some of them unemployed while having to deal with a higher cost of living. Urban areas, where the youth prefer to reside in, are unsuited for traditional farming which draws interest in it even further away from the youth.
Farmtech with a mission to solve youth unemployment, envisions itself as a propagator of agricultural innovation in the Philippines that will provide sustainable and meaningful jobs that will create value and significant impacts on the country. To achieve this, the team opted to establish a business that consists of multiple phases to facilitate at least 10 000 jobs in the next decade. The business will utilize agricultural technologies, mainly hydroponics, where the team will put up multiple centers that will grow different types of crops in a compound.
The team will form a contract with students who will be given training where in the students will have shifts from center to center so that they would already be familiar with how the different crops are being grown. Since hydroponics farming does not require much maintenance, the students will also be given formal schooling but specific on agriculture to facilitate holistic learning and innovation.
When the students finish their training, they will be provided with their own hydroponics system that will be paid by a portion of their monthly wage since they will already be salaried at the beginning of the contract. The contract will also require the students to join a cooperative that the team, which they will also be responsible for administering, will form out of the trained students for a certain number of years. The cooperative is formed so that it can pool the products of the students and will partner with other firms (local markets, restaurants, etc.) to create and answer a bigger demand. Another reason for the formation of the cooperative so that they may avail of bulk prices of inputs needed to be able to produce products at a more competitive price. The firm will also develop a mobile application where the partner firms will be able to place orders and keep track of their order to facilitate better communication and transparency. After finishing the years required by the contract to join the cooperative, the farmers may opt to stay or not but they may also avail of the benefits of the app developed by the firm for a fee. After being trained in the firm the students may also opt to work or pursue higher education in agriculture, where after they graduate will be part of the research and development department of the cooperative.
In general, income will come from selling the products grown in the training centers, collecting a portion of the farmers’ wage in the cooperative, and receiving payment of fees from independent farmers who are using the app. To maximize success, the business will partner up with the firms mentioned above who are in need of food products, and also with schools and barangays who would help in finding a roster of trainees. Nonetheless, the business model can function at a small scale starting with a few centers utilizing one feasible farming technology which is hydroponics, then, as the business collected enough savings and has done sufficient research, more centers will be created in different locations to accommodate more youth which could lead to further profits and social impact.
In its pilot years (about first three years), the target market are high school graduates in rural areas (particularly in Visayas and Mindanao regions) who are interested in having farming as a livelihood and does not have the means to pursue further education. This is to ensure the students who will participate in the training program will have basic knowledge of the terms and concepts necessary to understanding the farming methods to be presented, so that the business could establish a strong foundation in terms of capital and experience to accept more trainees. Then in the latter years, the business will accept out of school youths (OSYs) who could not finish high school nor college but are interested to do work like farming for a living.
Taking into consideration the lack of proper access to information in some of the targeted areas, marketing will be mainly dependent on seminars and discussions conducted in targeted schools and barangays. Contact details and other important information will be given during the events, and then repeated to the teachers for any student who may request it. Posters and signages describing the training program’s benefits and the training center’s location will also be placed around the area, but will contain illustrative pictures that may help convey the purpose or meaning of the messages written therein. If possible, the team will also directly market to families already familiar with agriculture by visiting the farms in the area. Emphasis will be placed on how the training requires no upfront payment, and to support claims of its efficient farming methods, have pictures and other data prepared of its trial success.
One clear advantage of the business is that it plans to effectively integrate technology in the system. After years of operation, with the help of the research and development department, the cooperative will eventually employ of various agricultural technologies such as aquaponics, different machineries,vertical farming, etc. with the ultimate goal to elevate the standards of farming. As a result, the advantage of utilizing these technologies for the business will ensure that the food products are produced in large quantities while maintaining high standards of quality, and are less risky to grow.