In April, the six finalists in GFAR and YPARD’s Youth Agripreneur Project headed back to their homes in the four corners of the world after an intense week of orientation and skills building at the GCARD3 Global Event, to embark on their personal adventures–and tackle their particular challenges–in agricultural entrepreneurship. Over the last three months, Jax, Anil, Nikki, Lillian, Jony, and Kellyann have taken what they learned in the YAP induction workshop and used it to fine-tune their business plans and set realistic milestones for progress; they have channeled the excitement of the pitches they delivered at GCARD3 into campaigning for support through social media, crowdfunding, and getting their names out in their communities; and they have started forming relationships with their mentors who will support and challenge them during this year, and help them identify the resources they will need to make their businesses successful.
Now, with a little more experience under their belts, we asked the YAPpers to reflect on where they have come since GCARD3. The project that Josine proposed is the Mechanical Post-Harvest Pest Removal System (MPReS): a manually-operated, mechanical device that can be used by farmers to easily and effectively remove post-harvest and storage pests in stored rice and corn. Additionally, it can be used for other grains such as wheat, millet, and sorghum. Here is what she has to say about where she has come thus far…
I’ve always been a firm believer that knowledge is something that one does not learn exclusively within the four walls of any learning institution. Perhaps in the world of agriculture, this is more evident than in most other fields of science and study.
Anyone who has ever studied any branch of agriculture – whether it’s crop science, animal science, crop protection, agricultural extension, what have you – will agree that there’s no better teacher in agriculture than actually experiencing something for yourself.
No matter how many hours you spend in a classroom learning the theories of agriculture, nothing beats actually planting seeds, holding soil in your hands, dissecting an insect, or talking directly with farmers to learn about how they live their daily lives.
To this end, I’ve always considered myself blessed to be surrounded by people who are experts in both the theory and practical applications of many different agricultural fields.
So, the adventure begins!
You can only imagine how excited I was upon waking up and finding out that the first tranche of the grant had already come in. My mind was buzzing with the possibilities, and there seemed like there was nothing I couldn’t do.
Right now, I was on an “accomplishment” high. My team and I were finally able to create a working design, we had already spoken to a patent lawyer and gotten the steps on how we should patent, I was able to find a private investor (who, for the record, is NOT from the field of agriculture), and most exciting of all, we were able to add a new and exciting feature to the original design that was not included in the proposal, but will result in a more efficient machine, without adding too much to the cost, labor, and maintenance.
So, yes, I was so excited! Bring it on! Let’s go! I’m ready for anything!
An Unexpected Frustration
Now here was something I didn’t expect. After months of refining the design and tons of different simulations, there was still one fundamental design problem we couldn’t tackle. I remember racking my brain, trying to think of an expert that I could approach and get an opinion from.
I remember going to different departments, from Agriculture, to Physics, to Engineering. I talked to tons of different people, all of them experts in their own fields, and holders of multiple degrees. They answered me in different ways:
“It can’t be done, sorry.”
“I can’t figure out a way to do it.”
“Are you sure we can’t tweak your design? It’s too difficult to do it this way.”
I was so disappointed. It felt like being so close to my goal, with this one obstacle blocking my path.
I remember walking around in a haze. One of my favorite quotes sprung into my mind:
I was a miserable grump.
Then along comes an even more unexpected (but very welcome) solution
I was pretty much on the edge of losing hope and going home to wallow in my misery when I came upon this sign:
Then it occurred to me that, in all my years on this campus, I’ve never really taken the time to visit this place. Well, no better time to remedy that oversight than now. So inside I went, and this is what greeted my eyes:
As I was walking around, a man came up to me, and asked what I was doing there. Seeing as I had nothing to lose at this point, I told him the problem that my expert team and I were trying to figure out.
I remember he was quiet for a few moments. Then he walked over to a dusty old table, grabbed a piece of chalk, and started to draw…something.
After a few minutes, he looked up, and said, “This design would be able to do what you’re looking for.”
And this was how I met Sir Eugenio Eugenio (don’t you just love this name?), the man who would be making my machine for me.
Finding the last piece of my puzzle in Mang Gene was like finding treasure buried in your backyard: wholly unexpected, pretty unbelievable, and completely delightful.
I found another addition to my team of agricultural experts, and I couldn’t be happier.
So, world of agriculture, Mang Gene and I are coming, and I hope you are ready!
This blogpost by Josine (“Jax”) Macaspac (josinemacaspac(at)yahoo.com) originally appeared on the GFAR blog. Josine is one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD. The YAP Finalists launched their projects during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016.
Watch Jax introduce her project at the #GCARD3 conference