Sweet sorghum planter Bapamin Enterprises eyes to produce popular American snack granola bar using nutritious sweet sorghum grains possibly under a Department of Agriculture (DA) technology incubation program.

A snack bar that traditionally uses temperate-growing oats, the granola bar planned to be produced by Bapamin will use sweet sorghum grains that are already locally available. Sweet sorghum is known as a climate smart crop. Bapamin runs a 24-hectare sweet sorghum farm in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

“Instead of granola, it uses sweet sorghum grains which is a nutritious food. It’s easy to produce sweet sorghum in areas with irrigation problems (like in Ilocos). We have to adapt to our climate, and it’s really a good alternative to rice,” said Doris Arcangel of Bapamin.

Snack bars have a huge potential market as these are a substitute to rice-based products. Granola bars are an alternative food to rice and to breakfast cereals that use corn in flakes, oats, wheat, or rye.

Traditional granola bars are made of pressed oats, nuts, and honey.

Bapamin is already producing food products from sweet sorghum. These are sweeteners, vinegar, cookies, and it is testing food preparations as diet for certain hospital patients.

Given further research and development, Bapamin may decide to produce the granola bar under a technology incubation program (TBI) of the DA, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), and the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi Arid tropics (ICRISAT.

The company has earlier obtained its superior sweet sorghum varieties under a DA-BAR program as developed by ICRISAT.

As a value-adding program, ICRISAT and DA-BAR may further assist Bapamin in the granola production.

“We’ve already identified manufacturers to supply food processing equipments to Bapamin. It’s very much possible for us to link Bapamin to these manufacturers,” said Dr. Saikat Datta Mazumdar, chief operating officer of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP).

BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar said BAR has the mandate to help agriculture-based technologies like that of sweet sorghum products so these may be released to the market on a commercial scale.

“BAR is open to international partnerships as with ICRISAT which has long been its collaborator in many climate crops that are now successfully used in the Philippines,” according to Eleazar.

Sweet sorghum is a good substitute to sugarcane as it has been found to be low-glycemic under an earlier BAR-funded program. It is recognized as climate smart as it uses less water using just around 20-25 percent of the water required to grow sugarcane.

It can be grown two to three times a year compared to sugarcane which is longer-gestating and is known to have only one cropping per year.

Datta Mazumdar said the NutriPlus Knowledge (NPK) program of ICRISAT-AIP has had a preliminary discussion with Bapamin to incubate (enable business development) of the sweet sorghum-using granola bar.

Preliminary discussions on this incubation program were held between ICRISAT Director General William D Dar and DA Undersecretary Dante S. Delima who led last month a high-level delegation to ICRISAT’s headquarters in Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Long distance

In these times of globalization, AIP-ICRISAT does not see distance as a problem in overseeing operation of a company as Bapamin from as far as its Patancheru headquarters.

“I don’t think it’s difficult. If you look at projects we are handling in Africa, most of the equipment are from India, and I don’t think Philippines will be a problem. India has been sending equipment all the way to Africa and the Middle East. I don’t think distance is an issue,” said Datta Mazumdar.

The agribusiness incubator of ICRISAT has commercialized 94 technologies, supported 180 business ventures, and mobilized a total of $18 million investment. It has directly employed 832 and introduced 82 products in the market.

TBI

The technology business incubation partnership with Philippines, in general, may be pursued on a larger scale.
“We may engage in a government to government or institute to institute project. We can transfer our expertise to them,” said Datta Mazumdar.

AIP-ICRISAT’s expertise on helping upgrade a business into a nationally and even globally-relevant trade may further level up operation of local agribusiness startups.

TBI programs have been known to help enable private enterprises to become profitable. TBIs offer startup businesses an integrated help. This includes aid in technology, business administration, laboratory facilities, manpower pool of researchers, scientists, and field specialists, supply of equipment or facilities, and local and global marketing.

Incubators also provide administrative services to startup businesses that enable them to focus on their main business. These are accounting, provision of business office, business registration, quality management, licenses, export-import.

DOST TBI

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) already has a program on TBI. Through DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute, it has put up a TBI facility on C.P. Garcia Street at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

This TBI facility has been instrumental to the birth of startup technology businesses including GS Metrix and Itemhound.

However, the Philippines needs more TBIs that will give birth to startup enterprises particularly on food and agriculture.

“AIP-ICRISAT acts as a catalyst for Inclusive Market Oriented Development or IMOD by linking smallholder farmers to different stakeholders across the value chain,” said Dar.

Government fund

The agribusiness incubation program at ICRISAT was established with financial support from the Indian government’s National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board of the Department of Science and Technology.

Its mission is to “improve well-being of the poor through the creation of competitive agri-business enterprises by technology development and commercialization.”

Funding

A very basic problem of small businesses is funding. The AIP comes in to help startups in this.

A TBI setup in the Philippines like that of the AIP may similarly do brokering to fund a new business.

“If the entrepreneur does not have the fund, we can look for where to find the fund. This service is incorporated into the system,” said Datta Mazumdar. “In our model of sourcing funding, we also have venture capitalists to whom we have linked entrepreneurs.”

In its headquarters in India, AIP-ICRISAT has facilitated funding for an Indian agricultural business with a venture capitalist, Song Investor.

TBI network

AIP-ICRISAT is willing to aid Philippines to set up a network of TBIs.

This network will link farm enterprises with government agencies that have the mandate to help businesses on different concerns. These are financing, agricultural production technologies, processing technologies, post harvest technologies, and marketing.

“We can have an orientation in the Philippines on how to run a business incubator. We can do training in business plan development and management assistance. We can also help bring incubators together–whatever you have there,” said Datta Mazumdar.

AIP-ICRISAT has started helping Africa on TBI setup.

“We have one program on African business incubation that’s going to happen. We will bring their managers together,” he said.

Other technology sectors, not only agriculture, may be incubated under the TBI setup since agriculture needs support systems from other sectors. These may be the information technology or electronics sector.

“By setting up network of incubators, there can be more technologies from different sectors, not just agriculture, not just our crops. It can be on low-end technology like virgin coconut oil and high-end like nanotechnology,” said AIP Deputy Manager Jonathan Philroy.

Fast incubation

With a help from a TBI, incubation of a business becomes fast.

AIP has been instrumental to the incubation of two seed companies that are now present in the Philippines.

Bioseed and Seedworks originated from India. They now supply hybrid corn and vegetable seeds to the Philippines and other South East Asian countries.

“In 2006, I walked in to ICRISAT with just two to three packages of seed. We then became their partner at the agribusiness incubation. We rented a glasshouse from ICRISAT,” said Dr. Dwarkesh Parihar of Bioseed.

Now Bioseed is also in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia.

AIP is based on the concept that innovation and entrepreneurship create prosperity.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship increase wages by creating continuous demand and by competing for human capital, knowledge, and resources. These reduce unemployment, connect local economies to the global economy, facilitate knowledge, and technology transfer,” according to an AIP primer.

Multinational marketing

As with Bioseed, a company can be helped find markets abroad.

“We can find out market conditions, market regulations in another country,” said Philroy.

AIP-ICRISAT has been doing this market linkage for Indian companies that wanted to set up business in Africa.

“Our help here is more on the value chain like one Indian company that’s working on production of sorghum wanted to enter the Kenyan market,” said Philroy. “There was a client that wanted to supply curry leaf and market it in Kenya. We looked at procurement in that part of the world,”

The company, Muarrya Exotica, has been helped on this curry leaf international marketing to Kenya.

Mentoring

Two important services of incubators are mentoring of business managers and networking.

The AIP may also aid Philippines in setting up a network of business incubators and institutions that strengthen technology business incubation.
In India, ICRISAT is part of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) which is a network of 22 organizations.

NAIP includes research networks (such as Indian Agricultural Research Institute) and universities (Anand Agricultural University, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University).

AIP’s Innovation & Partnership (INP) put up a food safety laboratory as funded by the government. It houses partners and helped establish their research and development centers. It has organized global events like the AgBioAsia and International Plant Nutrition Conference.

Among its partners are Pioneer-Dupont, Infosys, Galilee Israel, Maryland India Business Roundtable, Centro Internacional Del Papa, EMRC, PRIAS, Hytech Philippines Universiat Marburg, HHTP, MARG, DevGen, Cenbios, University of Pretoria, and ASPA.

Market-oriented

The AIP has been put up by ICRISAT so that innovation from laboratories may become a reality in the commercial world. Businesses should meet the demands of the market.

New products and services are now found in the market through its incubation program.

Nutriplus

The AIP’s Nutriplus program, set up in 2008, was also funded by the Indian government through the state of Andhra Pradesh .

Through post harvest management, food processing, and product development, farmers can become entrepreneurs even if they used to just plant ICRISAT dryland crops. ICRISAT’s major mandate crops are sorghum, pearl millet, groundnut (peanut), chickpea, and pigeonpea (kadyos).

In Africa, AIP has partnerships with the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Universities, Business and Research In Agricultural Innnovation (UNIBRAIN), Ministry of External Affairs, and FARA.

Nutriplus has food testing laboratories in Nigeria, Gambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. It has food processing business incubation centers in Ghana, Mali, Uganda, Cameroon,and Angola. The UNIBRAIN is present in Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, and Mali.

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For any questions or interview requests, kindly contact Ms. Analiza C. Mendoza 0921-338-3816, 0916-266-6604