“What future awaits us?”

“Are we wasting so much time stagnant in this crisis?”

“What if it’s too late to turn our lives around?”

Stacked amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, these bothered thoughts and anxieties have been in the minds of Dalyn T. Pillada, Maribel R. Sesduero, Loda D. Tanato, Christel John V. Gallego, and Ralf T. Pillada. But what released them from their worries was a social media post calling for interested applicants for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Young Farmers Challenge Fund (YFCF) Program. It paved the way for the establishment of their agribusiness, Mycophile.

For the ‘love of fungi’

Mycophile is a mushroom production and processing enterprise in Guimaras. ‘Myco’ means ‘fungi’, and ‘phile’ means ‘lovers of’—bringing their enterprise name to mean ‘mushroom lovers’. Its brand name is uhong, a local term for the fleshy body of edible mushrooms.

The five agripreneurs live up to our tagline, “Maskin waay kilat kag daguob… We provide, UHONG!” to depict their mission to provide mushrooms all year round. They are committed to being involved in the research and development of the mushroom industry in the Philippines and have envisioned making mushrooms a commodity and Mycophile being one of the leading suppliers of mushroom and its value-added products in the Western Visayas Region.

This agribusiness enterprise was proposed by the five college students hoping for a stable income to help in their families’ finances and to generate additional income for the community. They are all dedicated and passionate children of farmers and fishermen who united to become successful agripreneurs. Four of them are graduating students striving hard toward their dreams and consider this venture as one of their exits, an assurance of a bright future for their families.

Enhancing Mycophile’s potential through YFCF

Through the Provincial Level grant worth P250,000, the group managed to construct a mushroom house, substrate shed, sanitation area, and water facilities. It also helps sustain their operational expenses for one cycle. Last October, they officially started producing fresh oyster mushrooms and mushroom value-added products such as MushBurger, MushSiomai, MushTocino, and MushAtsara in original and spicy flavors. They also established partnerships with local mushroom growers, which also provided them with technical assistance and institutional buyers such as Stargazer Inn, Orygie et Local, and Francesca.

The team also won in the Regional YFCF and gained an additional P150,000, which they plan to invest in the construction of the laboratory and procurement of convertible vehicles.

All of it feels instant for the quintet, like a wonderful dream. They all struggled multitasking schoolwork, thesis, and starting up a business as new and inexperienced agripreneurs. But with teamwork and passion, they survived and achieved their goals.

It was a tough battle full of sacrifices and struggles as they consider themselves as still far from success. But knowing that they have each other, they believe that they can laugh it all out and continue the difficult journey. This enterprise has bonded them as friends and as a family that dreams and works together. It was also a chance of meeting inspiring and passionate DA Regional Field Office VI’s Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Division employees and the dedicated and enthusiastic YFCF awardees. It gave them hope that the future could be brighter and sustainable with these people working together.

Individual growth

The YFCF played a great role in their personal development. It makes them realize what they want to be, what they want to do, and what they can do. Through this program, they became aware of their capabilities and were pushed out of their comfort zones. After their project implementation, they realized the difficulties and challenges in growing mushrooms, but were still fascinated by the beauty and science of it that eventually, they could see themselves doing it even though many years would pass. They aspire to be CEOs who create jobs for the community. Aside from being a microbiologist, Pillada also realized that she also wants to be a mycologist studying a variety of fungi.

The Program successfully imparted to them the ability to dream. One of the lecturers during the YFCF Regional Summit inspired them with a quote by Napoleon Hill, “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

During this pandemic, they felt like nothing was going on with their lives; but over the course of three months, through the YFCF, their lives have changed. A lot has happened, so many experiences and learnings have been acquired, and valuable relationships were also established.

Mycophile’s success story is that of growth, of hope, and of purpose. While it is still a relatively small enterprise, the team believes that it can significantly impact lives, families, and communities. They hope to inspire many people, especially young agripreneurs, to pursue what their minds could reach and to take part in uplifting agriculture in the country. ###