Farming fintech wins P1-M SPC grant

FARMVOCACY, a Mindoro Island-based social climate fintech (financial technology) startup running a circular inclusive business model to support an environment-friendly and high-yielding farming system, bagged the P1-million funding grant during the Final Pitch Day of Shell LIveWIRE 2023.

Shell LiveWIRE is the flagship enterprise development program of energy giant Shell Pilipinas Corp. (SPC), with the vision to strengthen local economies by promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and meaningful employment.

Vincent Roy Mendoza, the chief executive officer of Farmvocacy, shared how their advocacy of ensuring a sustainable future has been empowered by Shell LiveWIRE which validated “… that what you’re thinking and what you’re trying to innovate can actually contribute to creating better lives for us and specifically more to the future generations.”

Tech startup Farmvocacy was awarded the grand prize of P1 million at the Shell LiveWIRE 2023 Final Pitch Day. PHOTO FROM SPC

Tech startup Farmvocacy was awarded the grand prize of P1 million at the Shell LiveWIRE 2023 Final Pitch Day. PHOTO FROM SPC

Farmvocacy’s vision came from two objectives: to provide incentives for the farmers aside from an increased harvest and to encourage them to take care of the environment. It also addresses the farmers’ perennial challenge of decreased revenue as they are often forced to sell their crops at very low prices.

Farmvocacy, in return, offers the following solutions. First, it provides the farmers adequate storage where they can safely store their yield, avoiding spoilage and thus enabling them to consistently supply the market at fair prices. It also connects them to a community of fellow farmers for mutual support.

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Mendoza described the new cycle they are introducing: “The farmers can deposit their harvest in the storage to maintain the quality.” Because they have more chances of earning more, “farmers can have seed capital for the next cycle.”

Farmvocacy has also invested in teaching the farmers “climate-smart farming” which can increase their yield by 51 percent and raise their revenue by 16 percent while reducing carbon emission from their processes by 30 percent.

Promoting local growth

Climate-smart farming is developed in techno-farms where farmers can see firsthand its difference with traditional farming, comparing the two.

In the next 18 months, Mendoza said the startup is planning to target 20 percent of the overall market which is worth $277 million. A more immediate goal is to raise $600,000 to help 15 small farmers improve their processes and their earnings while making them more aware of their environmental impact.

Farmvocacy was among Shell LiveWIRE 2023’s top three finalists out of 200 candidates. The other two were Lithos Manufacturing OPC, a producer and trader of industrial and feed-grade minerals, such as calcium carbonate, zeolite and bentonite; and Lycan Motorcycles, a Filipino motorcycle and technology startup that is developing two-wheeled electric motorcycles and smart products.

“Shell LiveWIRE remains committed to its vision of promoting local growth by empowering individuals and communities,” said Serge Bernal, SPC vice president for corporate relations. “This is why it remains our flagship development program.”

Since it launched in 2020, Shell LiveWIRE has helped 42 innovators and business owners through the Acceleration Program. Twelve of these enterprises have entered SPC’s supply chain. The program’s equipping of tech startups and community enterprises has led to creating more than 500 local jobs for Filipinos.

Judges for Shell LiveWIRE’s Final Pitch Day were Geraldine Samson, real estate facilities manager of SPC; Rui Bom, a resident mentor of 500 Startups; Emmy Lou Versoza-Delfin, director for ICT Development Bureau of the Department of Information and Communications Technology; Liezl Sueño, senior technology transfer officer of Department of Science and Technology; and Sebastian Quiniones Jr., Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc.’s executive director.

Rafelita Aldaba, PhD, Department of Trade and Industry undersecretary for the Competitiveness and Innovation Group, acknowledged the work of both winners and finalists, saying that they “showcase a dedication to sustainability, covering a wide range of innovations from industries like transportation and innovations for climate and smart agriculture — leading us on into our future without limits.” She added, “Let’s all rally behind innovation that really inspires.”