From the Ed­i­tor: Meet A Man Who Has Con­trib­uted So Much to Philip­pine Agri­cul­ture

THIS TIME, we would like you to meet one per­son who has done so much to pro­mote in­no­va­tive agri tech­nolo­gies in the coun­try.

Agriculture - - Contents - >BY ZAC B. SAR­IAN

No, he is not the in­ven­tor of prac­ti­cal tech­nolo­gies. But he brought them here into the coun­try, now ben­e­fit­ing thou­sands upon thou­sands of farm­ers, es­pe­cially those who are into high-value crops pro­duc­tion. The fel­low is Arse­nio “Toto” Barcelona, a fel­low who is ob­sessed in shar­ing in­no­va­tive farm­ing tech­niques.

Well, what has Toto done to pro­mote modern agri­cul­tural tech­niques? Plenty. When he started Harbest Agribusi­ness Cor­po­ra­tion over 25 years ago, he ze­roed in on the hy­brid seeds of high-value crops de­vel­oped by Known-You Seed of Tai­wan. These in­clude va­ri­eties of seed­less and seeded wa­ter­mel­ons, hon­ey­dew mel­ons, toma­toes, pep­pers, eg­g­plant, pump­kin, pa­paya, and many oth­ers. Of course, sell­ing hy­brid seeds to farm­ers was extremely dif­fi­cult at that time be­cause they were new and en­tailed great ex­pense. But Toto per­sisted, con­duct­ing teach-ins, sem­i­nars, de­mos, sea­son-long train­ing, par­tic­i­pat­ing in trade shows and more. In the long run, Toto’s ef­forts have paid off, not just for his com­pany, but more im­por­tantly, for the farm­ers.


– We don’t know of any­body who had in­tro­duced plas­tic mulch in the Philip­pines be­fore Toto did. Of course, again, it was no easy job to sell the idea to the farm­ing pub­lic. In fact, Toto tells us that it took him one year be­fore he could dis­pose off the first 10 rolls that he im­ported. To­day, how­ever, us­ing plas­tic mulch in grow­ing high-value veg­eta­bles and other crops has be­come stan­dard prac­tice and so many farm­ers are ben­e­fit­ing from the tech­nol­ogy. Plas­tic mulch pre­vents weed growth, con­serves soil mois­ture dur­ing dry pe­ri­ods, pre­vents wa­ter­log­ging dur­ing the rainy months, and also pre­vents ero­sion.


– Toto was also a pi­o­neer in in­tro­duc­ing plas­tic seedling trays for sprout­ing seedlings. It is now a very pop­u­lar tech­nique, and of course, it’s a good busi­ness for Harbest.


– Al­though a cou­ple of Is­raeli com­pa­nies had ear­lier in­tro­duced drip ir­ri­ga­tion in the coun­try, the tech­nol­ogy did not re­ally catch fire, so to speak, be­cause of the per­ceived high cost. The tar­get then was the big plan­ta­tions in Min­danao. Harbest be­lieved that the tech­nol­ogy should be pro­moted in the Philip­pines for a num­ber of good rea­sons. And so, Harbest be­came the dis­trib­u­tor of drip ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems from Jain Com­pany in In­dia which has bought a com­pany in Is­rael. To­day, Harbest is pro­mot­ing drip ir­ri­ga­tion of veg­etable farms in the Cordillera and else­where.


- Harbest seems to have a knack for dis­cern­ing the needs of the grow­ers of high-value crops. And so the com­pany brought into the coun­try small ma­chin­ery that are ef­fi­cient in pre­par­ing the land for plant­ing. The ma­chines can quickly pre­pare plant­ing beds, drainage canals, lev­ees, and more. The ma­chines make

Hon­ey­dew mel­ons in­tro­duced by Barcelona.

Barcelona (third from left) ex­plain­ing to vis­i­tors at the Agrilink expo the wa­ter­melon va­ri­eties he in­tro­duced into the coun­try from Tai­wan.

Arse­nio ‘Toto’ Barcelona

Eg­g­plant grown with plas­tic mulch, a tech­nol­ogy in­tro­duced by Barcelona.

Barcelona, seated at right, at the launch­ing of KSK train­ing pro­gram in Is­abela.

Barcelona show­ing ex­tra-long eg­g­plant fruits from KnownYou.

Farm­ers are now mak­ing money grow­ing Red Lady pa­paya in­tro­duced by Barcelona.

Barcelona pi­o­neered the in­tro­duc­tion of seedling tray in the Philip­pines.

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