Forging Ahead With Technology Business Incubation In Laguna And Beyond

With four campuses strategically located in Laguna, the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) can definitely perform the role of development catalyst not only in the province but also beyond Calabarzon (Region 4A).

And while LSPU is currently offering courses for accountancy, computer sciences and criminal justice, its ongoing programs/projects for technology business incubation (TBI) for agriculture and agribusiness are making a big impact on livelihood generation and poverty reduction in Laguna and beyond.

Launched in November 2019 in partnership with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), an agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Agri-Aqua Technology Business Incubation (AATBI) program has seen remarkable progress.

But even before the AATBI took off the ground, LSPU was already pushing various TBI projects across Laguna and beyond.

Among the most successful TBI initiatives of LSPU is “Kabute-han” that pushes mushroom cultivation and value adding/processing, which was started in 2015 and has been successfully sustained by the university.

LSPU Vice President for Research Development and Extension Dr. Corazon N. San Agustin said raising mushrooms is both profitable and friendly to the environment, as there is no waste generated in the production process. Conversely, the production of mushrooms utilizes farm wastes, particularly the discarded stalks and leaves of rice plants after harvest. This helps address the issue of farm wastes in the countryside.

And it so happened that the Siniloan campus of LSPU is surrounded with rice fields, providing an abundance of raw materials to make fruiting bags needed for mushroom production.

After five years, LSPU’s TBI for mushroom has spawned, literally, hundreds of “mushroopreneurs” in Laguna and beyond. This, in turn, increased the demand for fruiting bags for producing mushrooms.

“Yon din ang unang tinuro ng university sa mga tao (make fruiting bags). Kulang kami ng production ng fruiting bags. Kasi habang dumadami ang incubatees or those who like to engage, kailangan dumami din ang fruiting bags (The university also trained people to make fruiting bags as we cannot produce enough of those. Because as the number of incubatees or those who would like to engage in mushroom production increases, there is a need to increase the volume of fruiting bags),” San Agustin said.

She calls those who have gone into cultivating mushrooms “mushroompreneurs.”

Dr. Robert C. Agatep, campus director of the LSPU Los Baños Campus, who was instrumental in getting the Kabute-han project off the ground, said that thousands have already trained under the program, and the state university has conducted research to develop value-added products from mushrooms.

Among these value-added products are mushroom canton (noodles), chicharon and lately, sisig. He added that LSPU is now taking care of the intellectual property papers for its mushroom sisig.

Agatep said that the good thing about raising mushrooms is it does not create pollution.

“Yung ang gustong gusto ng mga nag-rai-raise ng mushroom ay yung pollution is wala, unlike pag-aalaga ng hayop, magrereklamo ang kapitbahay. Yung mushroom growing walang reklamo ang mga kapitbahay (What mushroom growers like very much is it causes no pollution, unlike raising animals, which can cause neighbors to complain. With mushroom growing, there are no complaints from neighbors),” he added.

Mushroom cultivation is also profitable, if not very profitable, according to San Agustin.

She explained that one fruiting bag that LSPU sells for about P135 each can produce mushrooms for four months. Production can be from one kilo per week or two weeks.

So, it is no wonder that LSPU’s Kabute-han project remains one of the most successful under the university’s AATBI program.

And LSPU’s other programs for creating more agri-aqua enterprises are getting faster off the ground because of the university’s partnership with PCAARRD.

PCAARRD’s Crucial Role

PCAARRD was once headed by Dr. William D. Dar before he was appointed for the first time as Agriculture secretary in 2000. And even before he was appointed for a second time as Agriculture secretary in August 2019, Dar strongly believed that SCUs should take a bigger role in developing local or rural economies, by assisting small farmers and fishers, women and the youth to become agripreneurs by tapping science-based solutions.

Dar fondly calls this approach “research for development” or R4D that differs from research and development or R&D, which he said can result in scientific outputs just sitting on the shelves of research institutes and having no impact on the community. This in turn results in wasted public funds.

Fortunately, the advocacy that research should be for development, especially in the countryside, was never lost with PCAARDD, which has been actively partnering with SCUs since 2017 to create agri and fishery-based business through technology transfer and trainings, among others.

PCAARRD Supervising Science Research Specialist Noel A. Catibog said the agency started its partnership program for TBI in 2017 with six SCUs. As 2020 drew to a close, PCAARRD had 16 SCUs as its partners with nine from Luzon, three from the Visayas and four from Mindanao.

The DOST has consistently provided funding for the initiative or P135 million from 2017 to 2020.

“The DOST continues to provide funding to support agri-aqua TBIs,” Catibog said.

And with LSPU having PCAARRD as its partner to further its AATBI program, the SCU is in an excellent position to contribute more significantly to the development of Laguna and beyond.

Besides Kabute-han, LSPU has a project for the processing and value adding of native fruits like santol (Sandoricum koetjape), bignay (Antidesma bunius), calamansi (calamondin), among others. Its bignay and calamansi fruit juice concentrates are marketed under the brand Anika, and LSPU produces enough volume of such products to supply major markets like Metro Manila.

Agatep also disclosed that LSPU has 133 hectares of land under development in Sinoloan that will both serve as a future agritourism site and experimental station for the cultivation of various crops.

Big things are definitely ahead for LSPU in the agricultural and agribusiness fronts.

(Editor’s note: Watch out for more success stories in the future issues of Greenfields Magazine about LSPU’s projects under its AATBI program.)