Filipino student develops app to help low-income farmers reap more profits

VINEYARD, Utah — A young Filipino student is striving to revamp an old Philippine industry: farming.

“I want to help change the agricultural landscape in the Philippines,” Brigham Young University–Hawaii student Elvin Laceda said.

To do that, the Pampanga native developed “RiceUp” — a smartphone app that’s supposed to help low-income farmers harvest higher profits.

“We’ve seen that digital technology, using mobile phones, smartphones and computers, will enable them to connect with the consumers directly,” Laceda said.

That means farmers can skip the middlemen who, according to Laceda, buy crops, mark up prices and absorb most of the profit.

The app, he said, should allow local “karinderya” owners, “palengke” vendors and households to purchase goods at a lower cost, as well as maximize farmers’ profit margins.

“From 14 dollars a week, they can earn as much as 35 to 50 dollars a week,” Laceda said.

In addition to the app, Laceda and his RiceUp team have also set up two model farms — one in Lubao, one in Floridablanca — where farmers can become “agrepreneurs” by learning about digital literacy and new techniques in farming.

“So we are training them with principles in financial literacy and helping them create a mindset to become entrepreneurs,” Laceda said.

Last summer, 50 farmers attended those workshops, and right now, 15 are using the beta version of the RiceUp app.

Laceda said this whole idea sprouted from his agricultural roots.

“I was raised by my grandfather, who was a farmer and a fisherman, and my grandma, who was a vendor in the “palengke,” a local market, and I’ve seen firsthand the hardship and the poverty, and I thought, ‘I need to do something about this,'” he said.

Laceda has two more years of classes at BYU–Hawaii before he reaps a bachelor’s degree in political science and returns to the Philippines to further grow RiceUp.

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