The agri-aqua innovation challenge | Inquirer Business

The agri-aqua innovation challenge


Policies with provisions to strengthen, promote and develop an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture in the country are being put into place. The Innovative Startup Act, or Republic Act No. 11337, the Youth Entrepreneurship Act (RA 10679) and revisions in the Corporation Code all point toward the right direction.


The Agri-Aqua Innovation Challenge builds on these developments. Funding from the Department of Science and Technology allows the Innovation Challenge to grant a total of almost P6 million to the teams for their innovation journeys. The winning startup receives P1 million while the winning student team receives P400,000. Additional funds are given for them to do market validation and product iteration. All the finalists receive at least P100,000 to encourage them for the road ahead.

But it’s not just monetary support. By bringing in the academe and industry, the Innovation Challenge is not just an event to award winners, but a platform to nurture innovators. Professors from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) as well as CEOs and managers of agri-aqua companies of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) will mentor the teams. They provide frameworks and best practices appropriate to their context in their innovation journey.


Unfortunately, these efforts may not be enough to nurture successful startups. Statistics would place their failure at about 90 percent. Then why bother? There are as many reasons as there are entrepreneurs. But let me offer two.

Problem solving

First, one of these startups may have the solution to one of our problems. The startup pharmaceutical companies protecting us from COVID-19, Aquagentech of University of Santo Tomas, may be able to help shrimp farmers evade the white spot syndrome virus through their patented rapid detection kit. Or University of the Philippines Los Baños’ HormoGroe might reduce the cost and improve the yield of our farmers’ crops and insulate them from the skyrocketing cost of synthetic fertilizers.

The second is more profound. Going through the innovation process makes them better persons, students and Filipinos. Innovation requires empathizing with the customer, understanding another Filipino’s problem, helping them with creative ideas, implementing a solution as a product or a service and organizing people to address a cause larger than his own. Early on, innovators become aware of concepts they have to learn, risks they need to mitigate and actions they have to take. This makes their education purposive. They prepare for the career they define for themselves.

They can fall short at any part in the process—missed customer insights, failure of product features or dysfunction in the organization. But it’s an iterative process. This engenders humility and grit. As Edison puts it—“I have not failed. I just found a thousand ways that won’t work.” From the failures, they have a better understanding of what it would take to succeed. How should they communicate? Who should they work with? Instead of just complaining about our problems, they try to find solutions. This makes them better Filipinos.

This Nov. 9, the first batch of Filipino agri-aqua innovators will be pitching their solutions at AIM from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Prospective customers, partners and investors are welcome to visit. They have booths to showcase their products and services. The public is encouraged to examine these solutions and meet the teams behind them at The demo day will be broadcast live on this site. INQ

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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