The agri-aqua innovation challenge | Inquirer Business
MAPping the Future

The agri-aqua innovation challenge

(First of two parts)

Despite the country’s fertile lands and waters and huge exclusive economic zones, the Philippines is behind its neighbors in farm productivity, crop diversification, and agri- and sea-based export production. Our farmers and fisherfolk comprise two-thirds of the poor in the country. Such is the irony that they themselves are not that keen on their children following in their footsteps. The result is a declining enrollment in courses and erosion of workforce in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors. As the average age of farmers increases past 58 years old, this setup threatens food security.


In this context, the Department of Science and Technology–Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, the Asian Institute of Management and the Management Association of the Philippines set up the Agri-Aqua Innovation Challenge. By leveraging science and technology, the innovation challenge aims to inspire and engage the next generation of Filipinos in shaping a modern, progressive and more relevant agriculture and aquaculture sectors.

This is an annual competition open to student teams and registered startups. It aims to provide a platform where research and development occurring in universities can be translated to actual products and services used by Filipinos. Research by Ph.D., masters, or undergraduate students should not only be “bound” as publications, but also as an intellectual property in products, resources in companies and foundations of industries. It encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of science and technology in their products and services and in their businesses.


The innovation challenge highlights the role universities play in our innovation ecosystem and national development. Aside from transmitting knowledge, skills and attitudes to students, universities are catalysts of economic development. For instance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a small university of 13,000 people, reported its entrepreneurial impact in 2015. Alumni have founded more than 30,000 companies, employed almost 5 million people, and generated $2 trillion in annual revenues or about six times the gross domestic product of the Philippines.

The Philippine Startup Ecosystem 2020 Report, on the other hand, counted more than 400 startups in the country. How many of them from our universities and received venture funding is not known. Even if all are from our universities or have received funding, the Philippines, a country of 100 million people, has an output no different than that of the University of Virginia. Yes, Virginia. This is according to Pitchbook’s global ranking of schools in terms of number of startups from 2006 to 2020. Stanford ranked first with 1,258 startups followed by UC Berkeley, MIT and Harvard.

But change is coming. INQ

(To be concluded)

The author is co-chair of the MAP human and development committee for higher education, CEO of Conceptblocks and adjunct Professor at AIM. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected]

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