An innovative solution that would create a digital ecosystem for farmers and agricultural cooperatives to possibly increase the amount of their produce is this year's big winner in 2021 Shell LiveWIRE, a global flagship program of Shell that promotes local entrepreneurship and develops local economies. Batangas-based startup Agro-DigitalPH, which can help strengthen food security especially in a pandemic, bagged the grand prize of P500,000.

The other contenders were technology startups that also promoted livelihood and supported sustainability: Panublix from Ilo-Ilo City, an online marketplace for indigenous weavers; and SACHI-Group Inc., a Bulacan manufacturer of eco-friendly materials. All three companies were chosen from among 200 initial contenders to present their ideas and innovative enterprises during Shell LiveWIRE’s Final Pitch Day on November 16, as part of the Shell LiveWIRE Acceleration Program.

Cesar Romero, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, described the impact that the program has on the business community: “Shell LiveWIRE enhances the entrepreneurial skills of local startups and showcases solutions that offer innovation and job creation for our fellow Filipinos. It helps local technology and community enterprises remain competitive during these difficult times through mentorship from our local and international pool of business experts.”

Farmers, fishermen, and artisans

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez also shared a positive effect of the program and its winners on another sector of hardworking, if struggling, Filipinos: "Due to the unprecedented crisis brought by a global pandemic, startup jobs are also considered to be more future-proof as the economy gradually transitions to digital services. Thus, people working on these jobs will potentially have more in-demand skills, moving forward to post-pandemic future."

Henry James Sison, founder of grand prize winner Agro-DigitalPH, aims to create a trust-based digital food value chain, assisting farmers and fishermen in establishing online presence through cooperatives and associations. Together, these sectors can develop a digital food system that puts a premium on trust and transparency. Sison explained his vision, "We see the undeniable synergies of bringing Pilipinas Shell’s farming and fishing communities into Agro-Digital. Establishing this realizes an authentic seed-to-fork system that can be piloted and perfected within the confines of Pilipinas Shell and eventually replicated in the market at large.”

Meanwhile, Panublix is a sourcing platform connecting designers and brands with Philippine tropical textiles. Based on the Hiligaynon word “panublion” which means “heritage,” it prepares rural artisan enterprises for the e-commerce market. According to founder Noreen Bautista, the startup intends to “create an exchange of heritage with crafters, textile makers, and designers because the whole global fashion and design industry is really looking for sustainability. We hope Panublix can be that gateway to provide that opportunity, especially to our rural artisans."

Finally, pioneering sustainability and plant-based packaging solution SACHI-Group Inc. manufactures and distributes eco-friendly and compostable biodegradable packaging materials like Cassava BioBags. Its CEO and Co-founder Prince Ang maintained that their success in providing alternative materials can help “develop a different end-of-life stream for these combustibles. Then we can be able to really solve the plastic problem in the Philippines.”

Innovation solving socio-economic issues

Shell LiveWIRE has provided this next generation of innovators opportunities for mentorship, financial assistance, technical expertise, and a chance to be part of Pilipinas Shell's supply chain.

The top three technology startups were given guidance and time to refine their pitches for Shell LiveWIRE's Final Pitch Day. Shell, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), and the Ignite Team prepared them during the Value Chain Meetings, while DAI Global, LLC., the global partner of Shell LiveWIRE program, assisted them in sharpening their presentations during the Virtual Pitch Hours.

The panel of judges during the Final Pitch Day were composed of Sebastian Quiniones, PSFI Executive Director; Reynaldo P. Abilo, Pilipinas Shell’s Vice President-Finance; Engr. Edward Paul Apigo, Senior Science Research Specialist of DOST-PCIEERD; Frances Loraine Valdez, DICT Division Chief of ICT Eco-System Development; and Amarit Charoenphan, Chief Transformation Officer at Enserv Holding.

Continuing Pilipinas Shell’s mission of empowering communities and encouraging sustainability, Shell LiveWIRE tapped the following six promising community enterprises to join its program, with each taking home a cash grant of PHP100,000:

SIMCO a manufacturer of home, personal, and sanitary items; Coron Natural Farm, a conservation for organic agriculture and a learning site; KURE, which recycles and transforms plastic to new products like bags; RCM Oil and Eco Solutions, a waste management company that collects and converts used cooking oil to other forms of energy; Seeds and Scale Vegetable Farm, a modern, innovative way of farming green leafy vegetables; and Solchi Solutions, a provider of renewable energy solutions.

"Shell LiveWIRE will remain committed to communities through entrepreneurship, innovation, and employment. We believe that there is a real need for innovation and collaboration to work hand in hand in solving social and economic issues,” said PSFI Executive Director Quiniones. "To the success stories of our enterprises and their dedication to act for the community needs, we have proven that despite uncertainties, like this current pandemic, Filipinos will continue to strive and move forward.”

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