Farmers sa Umaga, Corporate Employees sa Gabi:
GO GREEN HYDROPONICS
Go Green Hydroponics is managed by two young farmers from the Municipality of Odiongan in Romblon. They are 26-year-old Jessa Baliguat and 30-year-old Kathleen Faith Selodio.
Juggling work and agriculture
Baliguat and Selodio are long-time friends working in a work-from-home set-up for companies based in Manila. Baliguat is a human resource professional while Selodio is a multimedia artist.
The two young lasses started to try farming during the onset of the pandemic, a time when everyone was kept in their homes. As they were spending most of their time at home in Romblon, they realized that they wanted to do something significant with their time.
Being a farmer’s daughter, Selodio opened the idea to Baliguat that they could try to continue her father’s farming venture. They tried planting tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuces in an idle land at the Selodio’s home with her father’s guidance. Although most of it was damaged by the typhoon, they were able to save some of the crops.
“Iba ‘yong feeling of fulfillment noong nakapag-harvest kami,” Baliguat shared.
Feeling fulfilled, their dream to venture into agribusiness was ignited. They started developing the idle land with hopes of inspiring more youth to be more interested in the agriculture industry, as they are aware of the current situation of the aging sector.
Delving into hydroponics
After their night shifts, the two would research farming. They came across a Youtuber’s channel that teaches about hydroponics. Like them, this Youtuber is also a work-from-home corporate employee.
The two started their hydroponics journey in an abandoned pigpen at Selodio’s family land. The pigpen was able to house 22 styrofoam boxes that served as their plant box. They tried to pre-sell 100 cups of lettuce to their close friends and relatives, which became a big hit to their surprise. Word spread across their town and they started to get more demands from their Facebook friends.
Blessings from the YFCF
As possibilities started to fill their vision, they discovered the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Young Farmers Challenge Fund (YFCF) Program through a friend, who happened to be a 4-H Club member. The two then applied for the said grant without any expectations at all.
“Sinubukan lang namin. Pero hindi kami masyadong nag-expect kasi ang daming nag-apply,” Baliguat shared.
However, the panel of judges was impressed with their vision and they qualified for the cash grant of Php 50,000.
To qualify for the program, the team researched and tested the market to prove that their business proposal was feasible. They attended several seminars and training related to agripreneurship and contacted local agriculturists and farmers to understand the agriculture business better.
With the cash grant received, Baliguat and Selodio built a greenhouse that can hold 3,000 lettuce heads. They can now produce and supply lettuce in Odiongan and seven nearby municipalities of their province. They have also partnered with local food business owners and restaurants for their fresh lettuce orders.
“75% of our harvest is now sold to restaurants, and the 25% to our household buyers,” Said Baliguat.
Customers are efficiently served through their chatbot on their Beloved Farms Facebook page. “For customer-centric use, chatbot was launched on November 2021 for automatic collection of orders, reservations, and delivery schedule. This system efficiently helped to provide fast service for our customers,” Selodio explained.
From just one variety of lettuce, they now expanded to five more: romaine, batavia, junction, bibb, and ruby lettuce. The excess from their harvests is used for their crab rolls and lettuce smoothies delivered to their customers.
The two young agripreneurs were also able to generate employment to an agriculture student and a former construction worker as their assistants in running the business.
The Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division of DA-MIMAROPA saw this significant development in their business. Along with the stellar evaluation result, they also saw the perseverance of the two to expand it to a bigger agribusiness venture.
“Big dreamer kasi kami ni Kat,” Baliguat stated.
With their values, which they gave an acronym called D.R.E.A.M.—Dedication and Commitment, Results-Oriented, Excellence and Innovation, Accountability and Integrity and Malasakit thru servant leadership—they hope to reach more areas outside of their province and to inspire more youth to venture into agribusiness.
The two also shared their team’s vision to deploy a smart and innovative system that monitors plants to increase the productivity of hydroponic crops by optimizing the control process of plant nutrient solution supply. They also envision bridging the gap in the supply chain and the delivery of service.
Because of their comprehensive pitch, they were chosen among the top three youth-led agriventures in MIMAROPA, where they will be receiving an additional Php 150,000 cash grant.
“We are very grateful and humbly appreciate the support we have received in this program. We see this as our stepping stone to transition to a new venture in our career, despite primarily being in a different industry. We are now on the part of our lives in deciding to focus on this project and continue to give impact to the youths we would be able to reach,” the two said.
With the Go Green Hydroponics success and their YFCF program experience, Baliguat and Selodio promised to continue being part of DA’s mission to inspire more youth to become successful agripreneurs and thrive as committed servant leaders for a more food secure and resilient Philippines.
“Masasabi na talaga namin na kami ay farmer sa umaga, corpo employee sa gabi,” Baliguat and Selodio declared. ### (Denice Joelle Benosa & Angela Rei Rodriguez, DA-MIMAROPA RAFIS)