They could have taken a pick on where to work and share their talent and skills. They are young, enthusiastic and industrious - qualities that any employer would scramble to hire. But they opted to become agripreneurs. Numeriano “Ted” Quemado III and Edsel James “Bong” Quemado, took the road less travelled.
Ted is a Cum Laude BS Agriculture graduate of Central Mindanao University, a premier University for Agriculture in the country. Many who graduated with honors opted to join the academe or government agencies. Ted chose not to do so. He loved to farm, a love inculcated by his parents since they were young.
On the otherhand, Bong who spent years as a Veterinary Medicine Student shifted to Financial Management, a decision greatly influenced by their booming business. Bong also works as a Freelance Digital Marketer for foreign clients, an opportunity he grabbed to earn more as they plow back additional capital to their growing business.
As a student, Ted already showed signs of being a cut above the rest, not just academically. After class, he helps at the Mushroom Laboratory in the school, learning everything from bagging to spawn production. While many of his classmates and friends were busy with their everyday lives, Ted is already applying what he learned in his own mushroom production at home.
In his first agri-venture, Ted started with a PhP 3,000 capital. He used it to come up with 100 fruiting bags of oyster mushroom. Since he doesn’t have an area yet, he utilized an area in their house for production. At one point, while he was producing mushroom and spawn during his senior year, he was able to earn more than P 20,000 in a day. From his one-day income he bought a microscope and used the remaining money to fund his thesis. The unexpected income was a major influence in Ted’s decision to deviate from the usual “employment” mindset of most graduates.
Immediately after graduation, he expanded his mushroom production. His father advised him to transfer his production area from their house to their farm in Kalasungay, Malaybalay City. This is because they needed a bigger space for their mushroom house.
Together with his brother, Bong, they began to formalize their business and social enterprise apty named Mushroom City. While being busy with the development of their mushroom business, the brothers together with their parents and sister continue to develop the farm by planting bamboos, brazilian fire tree, cacao, coffee and “plantitas”.
Ted and Bong attribute their love of the farm from their parents who trained them to love work at a young age. They help out in planting trees, both fruit bearing and timber. They also help in planting, harvesting and selling of corn. They also plant vegetables and helped in their tilapia pond.
The Quemabros’ Synergy
The Quemabros, as the brothers are fondly called have complemented their strengths to bring Mushroom City to greater heights. Ted’s technical expertise is being balanced by Bong’s financial and marketing savvy. It was a perfect combination. While Ted handles production, it was Bong who looks for market opportunities and linkages.
From initially producing fresh mushrooms, they now sell mushroom chicharon, fruiting bags and even garden soil. With the 100 fruiting bags at the start, they now have 8,000 fruiting bags and produces 5 to 30 kilos a day. Fresh mushroom is priced at PhP 200/ kilo. They started with the oyster variety and now expanded to ganoderma, shitake and straw mushrooms.
Their fast-selling product is healthy mushroom chicharon in various flavors. This is being sold in school canteens, cafe’s, restobars and stores within Malaybalay City. Later, they started selling to nearby cities of Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
They also engage in vermicast and nursery production. Their free range chicken production gives them source for the food that they cater to visitors of the farm. They also offer training packages for interested farmer-entrepreneurs who want to venture into mushroom production and processing. Since they started, they have already trained around a hundred mushroom enthusiasts.
Spreading their Wings
Just a few years after Ted’s momentous decision, the family is already reaping the fruits of their labors. They applied as a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) of the Agricultural Training Institute. Ted and Bong became favorite Resource Persons always invited by ATI and other government and private entities. By being a resource person, not only are they paid a professional fee but it allowed them to widen their network.
Since their mushroom-based products are gaining popularity as the new "pasalubong ng bayan", it was fortuituous move that Ted and Bong turned to harness the power of technology through their participation in the Digital Farmers Program (DFP). The said program which aims to empower farmers nationwide through the use of digital technologies is organized by the Agricultural Training Institute (Home of e-Extension in the Philippines) of Department of Agriculture-Philippines https://www.facebook.com/ATIinteractive and Smart Communications, Inc.
The brothers have many plans. They intend to be a supplier of ganoderma mushroom in Malaybalay City and neighboring areas. Ganoderma mushroom is known for its medicinal qualities. They also plan to expand their shitake mushroom. Shiitake mushrooms command a higher price and is considered one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide. It has rich savory taste and diverse health benefits. Compounds in shiitake are said to help fight cancer, boost immunity, and support heart health.
On the pipeline is the creation of Mushroom City E-commerce platform to sell directly to target customers without going through middlemen. They also want to improve their logo and rebrand their packaging to a more sustainable one.
In the near future, they want to build a café’ that will serve everything mushroom-related. They want to expand their repertoire of mushroom recipes. Presently, they serve mushroom toast, mushroom tempura and keto-friendly mushroom-based diet.
Their being a Learning Site for Agriculture has also factored in their future plans. They wanted to help as much as they can to ethically provide livelihood to locals through mushroom-based production.
Also, with the use of proper technology and the right digital platforms, Ted and Bong hopes to share and raise awareness among their co-farmers about e-commerce and agri-webinars. The official Facebook page of Mushrooom City can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/bukidnonmushroomss
The future looks bright for the Quemabros.