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DOST Urges MSMEs to Adopt Tech Innovation to Boost Production

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Agriculture has been shaped significantly by technological advancements over time. Humans have found innovative techniques to make farming more efficient and raise more food, from the invention of the plough to the global positioning system (GPS) driven precision agricultural equipment. Farmers are also always looking for innovative ways to irrigate crops or develop disease-resistant cultivars.

The Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Programme (SETUP) of the Department of Science and Technology in Region 10 (DOST-10) is said to have benefited an estimated 500 farmers, according to a DOST-10 executive.

According to a report, DOST Bukidnon Provincial Director Ritchie Mae Guno claimed they recently assisted a food manufacturing company, allowing the microbusiness to become Northern Mindanao’s first cacao butter manufacturer. The company had received a PHP625,000 loan from the DOST, which allowed them to buy brand new equipment such as an industrial hydraulic butter extractor, an industrial colloid mill, and an industrial multifunctional grinder.

SETUP strives to support and promote micro, small, and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) to adopt technological advancements to improve their goods and operations. It has been acknowledged that about 500 farmers benefited as they improved their technical knowledge and equipment. “These are smallholder farmers in the municipality of Pangantucan, including other the neighbouring towns like Kalilangan and Maramag,” Guno said.

Its DOST-funded product innovation support initiative runs from June 2021 to June 2022. Before being a SETUP beneficiary, the food manufacturing company had to cope with issues in numerous sectors of their manufacturing, resulting in low product quality and an inefficient production process, according to DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Pena. The company expects a 175% rise in sales next year, compared to 2021, owing to DOST’s help, according to both de la Pena and Guno.

According to them, some of the company’s products are being sold abroad through family and friends. Currently, the company’s local clients are from Cebu and Manila. Meanwhile, Guno said the DOST also assisted the company in its FDA licence to operate the application. “We also linked them (to those who provide) free consultations on good manufacturing practises, packaging, and labelling,” she said.

OpenGov Asia reported, the SETUP e-Caravan presents various technical assistance for the MSMEs which include capacity building, technology upgrading, consultancies, and manufacturing enhancement assistance, especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several DOST SETUP proponents were not spared to the pandemic’s negative effects, as they struggled to stay afloat using science, technology, and innovation. According to a study cited by the DOST Secretary, 70.6 % of MSMEs in the Philippines were forced to close temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He went on to say that “over 70% of local MSMEs had cash flow problems,” forcing owners to borrow from friends and family to keep their business running.

DOST incorporated a moratorium on SETUP refund payments for five months in 2020 and six months this year as part of its contingency plan to soften the blow to its co-operators. DOST is now focused on reintroducing its SETUP programme as SETUP 4.0, which will include industries from the Department’s priority sectors. SETUP 4.0 will not only assist MSMEs in surviving the pandemic’s challenges but will also prepare them and their respective industries for the Industrial Revolution 4.0, which will be characterised by the widespread use of emerging technologies such as automation, Internet of Things, 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence, among others.

Despite the enhancement of the MSME’s competitiveness, the DOST-NCR Director stated that it has been impacted by several factors such as consumer demand for products, rising costs on materials and production, policies, and the emergence of health protocols as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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