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Young Farmers Challenge winners from Soccsksargen to vie for national awards

Ylaine Joyce Giangan, proprietor of Macoff Coffee Processing, was named one of the winners of the Department of Agriculture’s 2023 Young Farmers Challenge Start-up category held on November 8, 2023, in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. Department of Agriculture XII OIC Regional Executive Director John Pascual (2nd from right) handed over Giangan’s monetary incentive during the event. (Photo: Danilo E. Doguiles/PIA Region 12)

Ylaine Joyce Giangan, who just turned 31 in August, left a career as a graphic artist and image enhancer in a business process outsourcing company in Davao City to give time to her newfound profession as a coffee farmer in Sitio Tinago, Barangay Cabilao, Makilala, Cotabato Province. 

Giangan, a graduate of an information technology course, now manages her enterprise, Macoff Coffee Processing, which produces coffee concentrate. Liquid coffee concentrates are used for making cold brews.

“Macoff Coffee Processing’s initial product is Sékót Coffee Concentrate, a no-preservative liquid coffee concentrate made from pure and whole coffee beans. I sell this product mostly to coffee shop owners who are looking for an easier and faster process for preparing coffee drinks,” Giangan said. 

Sékót, she elaborated, is a Bagobo-Tagabawa term, which she used as a product label to honor the Bagobo-Tagabawa indigenous people who supply her with coffee beans. Giangan currently sources beans from about 20 indigenous peoples (IP) farmers in Makilala.

Like Giangan, Adlin Joey Almencion, 28, of Barangay Rubber, Polomolok, South Cotabato, did not complete an agri-fishery course. He is a marketing graduate from Ateneo de Davao University who turned his hobby of growing crayfish in an aquarium into a full-fledged entrepreneurship.

Almencion owns Bluetail Aqua Farm, which breeds Australian redclaw crayfish for propagation and commercial food consumption.

Adlin Joey Almencion, who propagates Australian redclaw crayfish at his Bluetail Aqua Farm, was one of the regional winners for this year's Young Farmers Challenge Start-up category of the Department of Agriculture. He, along with the other six winners, received their cash incentives to be used to grow their businesses during the awarding ceremonies held in Koronadal City on November 8. (Photo: Danilo E. Doguiles/PIA Region 12)

He said the idea of growing this freshwater crustacean came from a YouTube video of a Singaporean entrepreneur who succeeded in commercially growing crayfish for food security.

“I said, maybe I can adopt [crayfish breeding] in the Philippines, considering that the country is replete with bodies of water suitable for crayfish farming,” Almencion said.

At present, Bluetail Aqua Farm, which started as an agri-fishery business only in July of this year, has at least 150 breeder-size Australian redclaw crayfish in its ponds.

Giangan, Almencion, and five other young farmer-aspirants were honored in an award ceremony in Koronadal City on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, as regional winners of the 2023 Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) Start-up category.

OIC Regional Executive Director John Pascual of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) XII said, “YFC of DA aims to provide financial assistance to our young farmers to start their agri-fishery enterprises with viability, feasibility, and profitability."

The 2023 Young Farmers Challenge winners of the Soccsksargen Region comprised the start-up and upscale categories. (Photo: Danilo E. Doguiles/PIA Region 12)

Other YFC Start-up winners are Sol Maraiah Into of Taluntalunan, Makilala, Cotabato Province, for her JCA Integrated Farm; Edwin Gonzales Jr. of Poblacion, Norala, South Cotabato, for his GB Farm Coco Products and Manufacturing; Mickegie Arancon of Purok Idaoman, President Roxas, Cotabato Province, for her OM-G! (Oyster Mushroom Growth, Generate, Gain); Denz Bert Deramas of Tinalon, Sultan Kudarat for his Sikap Coffee Enterprise; and Joseph Malantao Khester Gabe Odango and Patrisha Joyce Manalo for their MAGRICE App.

Regional YFC Start-up winners received P150,000 each; previously, they were granted P80,000 as champions in the provincial-level contest.

Giangan said that she used her P80,000 cash assistance as a YFC provincial winner to acquire a chiller, autoclave, stainless table, strainer, and refractometer. 

With the P150,000 she received as a regional winner, she plans to upgrade production by buying one or two filtering machines and grinders needed to cope with the growing demand for her coffee concentrate. 

“Young Farmers Challenge has been a real help for me as a start-up in this kind of business,” Giangan said.

Almencion, on the other hand, used his provincial cash grant for the construction of a breeding pond with a filtration system and growout ponds. A portion of the fund was also spent to purchase stocks from local farmers who had started backyard crayfish farming.

He plans to use the P150,000 cash aid to add the rock system needed to protect breeding crayfish from disturbances and encourage reproduction, as well as construct more ponds to expand the agribusiness. He also foresees the purchase of a generator set for the farm.

DA-RFO XII also recognized three former YFC Start-up winners as the 2023 YFC Upscale category champions, namely: Melvin Awid of Maitum, Sarangani for his UF Vanilla Spices Farm; Josue Carmen and Engr. Samuel Carmen of Surallah South Cotabato for their SOX Peppers business; and Rowell Tan and Trexie Marie Ortiz Tan of General Santos City for their RT Food Products.

YFC Upscale winners received P300,000 each.

Meanwhile, three students of the University of Southern Mindanao—Venjie Mencias, Samuel Cordova, and Datu Basser Abdullah—received P150,000 as winners in the YFC Intercollegiate competition with their project, Y'nut Gift from Nuts.

All seven YFC Start-up regional winners and Melvin Awid, the first-place winner of YFC Upscale, are slated to pitch their agriculture-based projects to vie for the national awards. 

The national awarding ceremony will be held in Tagaytay City in December. (DED – PIA SOCCSKSARGEN)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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