A fruitful journey:
SANAGI MUSHROOM AND AGRI-TOURISM FARM
It was only during the onset of the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when a young agripreneur in the making realized the importance of food security. Shawnie Dhale Bitso, a former Information Technology (IT) student from Tuba, Benguet, chose agriculture over a rising demand for IT specialists.
Mushroom farming for a living
Bitso started reusing rejected fruiting bags produced by his mother with high hopes of producing still-quality mushrooms. Like every mushroom producer with a poor growing kit, Bitso only had a few successful products. Rather than letting this shortfall drop to nothing, he kept positivity in his head. In 2019, Bitso secured orders of mushroom growing kits, from a single piece to thousands of pieces, enabling him to establish his SANAGI Agri-Tourism Farm and build more connections. His farm’s name came from the Ibaloi word ‘sanagi’, which means ‘brethren’ or ‘partnership’.
However, just when Bitso is ready to accept a higher number of demands for mushroom fruiting bags in 2020, his growing kits got contaminated and did not germinate mycelium. An order of 5,000 pieces turned to shreds. This put him in a difficult situation with the disappointed customer, but Bitso’s appeal for an extended month to fix the problem was permitted by the latter. He immediately converted the shredded growing kit materials into compost to sell. His earnings from the compost allowed him to gather resources, produce quality fruiting bags, and eventually regain his customer’s trust.
In the same year, Bitso had a clearer understanding of the importance of producing his own food, considering that the restricted movements during lockdown gave everyone—including him—a hard time heading to the grocery store to purchase food. This perception caused him to include food security in SANAGI’s vision of producing healthy food for the community and become a learning site.
In 2021, a friend of Bitso invited him to join the Young Farmers Challenge Fund (YFCF) Program. What started as a challenge quickly became an opportunity for Bitso to reach SANAGI’s dream of becoming a learning site.
Showcasing his knowledge on mushroom production and processing through the implementation of business model canvas, Bitso was competent enough to win a total of Php 200,000. The farm offers fresh mushroom, mushroom spawn, spent mushroom compost, and processed products like mushroom chicharon and mushroom grissini breadstick.
Fruits of his labor
With the grant of Php 50,000.00 from the Provincial Level Competition, Bitso was able to purchase materials used in the production of fruiting bags such as sawdust, rice bran, lime, sugar, and mushroom spawn. He was also able to fund other activities of his enterprise like processing and marketing.
As one of the Cordillera Administrative Region’s Regional Level awardees, Bitso received a total of Php 150,000 financial grant. He was able to procure a bagging machine and incubation cabinets. Likewise, part of the funds went to the ongoing improvement of his agri-tourism farm. Not making it to the top 6 of the National Level Competition, Bitso was not disappointed as he has already proven that he is a great young agripreneur.
On December 3, 2021, SANAGI Agri-Tourism Farm received its Certificate of Learning Site for Agriculture from the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). ###