Swearing by swine innovation

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The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2019 has concluded its search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc. with the participation of co-presenters Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. In the next few weeks, BusinessWorld will feature each of the finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2019.

Alvin S. Hing
Chairman and CEO

Paul T. Holaysan
President and COO

Excelsior Farms, Inc. (EFI)

PORK is integral to Filipino cuisine. This is evident in the popular selection of native pork dishes in the country.




Its high demand has turned pork into a P260-billion industry, making it the second-largest contributor to the country’s total agricultural income.

Currently, there are over 12 million hogs in the Philippine inventory, the bulk of which is still produced by traditional backyard breeders. Commercialized hog-raising might account for 35% of the country’s overall supply, but two Cebuano farmers are determined to revolutionize the local swine industry by leveraging innovative farming techniques.

Entrepreneurs Alvin S. Hing and Paul T. Holaysan were brought together by their shared vision of improving food security in the country through advanced, sustainable hog farming practices that would enhance livestock quality for breeding and consumption. Together, they founded Excelsior Farms, Inc. (EFI) in 2014, with Mr. Hing as EFI’s chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) and Mr. Holaysan as its president and chief operating officer (COO).

The Philippines consumes at least 1.5 billion kilograms (kg) of pork a year, with each Filipino consuming an annual average of 15 kg. In 2019, the country imported around 300 metric tons of pork to meet the needs of consumers. The company recognizes this gap as an opportunity for expansion, which oy can seize through modernization and by encouraging consumers to source their pork locally.

Currently EFI supplies pork to the biggest food distributors in Cebu, where the average annual consumption rate per person is 18 kg. Though the company faces high demand that constantly encourages it to increase sales, it takes pride in its consistently high-quality meat.

EFI’s farm is a modern facility located in Barangay Sacsac, Pinamungajan, Cebu. In line with its vision to leverage modern farming practices and technologies to help upgrade the local pig farming industry, it looked to scientific methods to achieve its objectives. These methods include applying various mechanisms to produce superior breeders and liquid genes, enhance the genetic stock of local swine, use a tunnel-ventilated system that keeps the pigs at a comfortable temperature, and many others.

The company sources its equipment from an international company that specializes in agriculture technology. This is to make sure that its facilities are at par with the global standards of swine farming.

At the same time, Mr. Hing and Mr. Holaysan aim to uplift the standards of pig farming by providing farmers with animals that are genetically superior through EFI’s partnership with a supplier. Throughout its five-year operation, the farm maintains at least 50 quality boars that are updated by their supplier every quarter and supplies breeders nationwide with packaged fluid for artificial insemination.

Mr. Hing explains, “There used to be a 10-year genetic gap between the pigs we’re producing locally, versus the ones in modern countries like the US. We wanted to improve the production of our farmers, so through our method, we brought down the genetic gap to two years. This resulted in pigs with improved genetics, faster growth, better equality and they can also adapt to harsher environments.”

Mr. Hing’s and Mr. Holaysan’s constant pursuit of innovation has also led them to integrate digital systems into their farming operations. They use software that enables them to constantly monitor the needs of the pigs, such as food, medicines and vitamins. At the same time, a program helps their farm manager oversee some 30 farm buildings through a single application. To keep their operations internationally competitive, EFI uses MetaFarms, a US-based software that allows it to benchmark against US and Canadian farms.

Technology also allows the company to minimize the risk of diseases, which is a major concern for any livestock operation. The company implements strict biosecurity measures to ensure the health status in the hogs. One procedure is a 48-hour downtime in a medium security area before entering the farm premises.

Despite their company’s efforts to modernize pig farming, they admit that slow adoption of automation and the challenges in Internet infrastructure in the country have been hindrances.

In reality, production has been overtaken by local demand, resulting in the need for heavy importation.

Aside from improving the quality of hogs, they also wish to give everyone access to quality education about the industry. Their advocacy is embodied in their business practices that led to the creation of the company’s aptly named core values: SWINE. It stands for Spirituality, Working together, Integrity, Nurture and Excellence. This further inspired them to establish the SWINEnovation learning center in 2018, through the collaborative efforts of their business associates. The learning center aims to contribute to the stabilization of the country’s pork supply by imparting the best swine industry practices to farmers, schools and industry stakeholders.

The learning center offers modules certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority on farm management and production from breeding to harvest, facility design, genetic technology, feeds and feeding, animal health, biosecurity and operation maintenance. It also aims to interest younger generation in farming by dispelling the belief that it is a “dirty” occupation. By transforming the perception of modern farming, they hope to get more people involved in the swine business.

The two innovative modern farmers keep themselves updated on new hog-raising procedures by going to other countries to observe new methods and technology. To further improve operations, the company has also started sending its staff abroad to learn these techniques firsthand.

Mr. Hing adds, “Our advocacy is to improve the lives of our people. Aside from the numbers and the profits, our main objective is to uplift our Excelsior family. We want to educate our employees, and we want them to be able to send their kids to school. We believe that if their children can graduate from university, this will benefit the country’s economy.”

EFI’s commitment to education encompasses their outreach programs. They provide assistance to their local community by conducting livelihood trainings, and by donating school supplies to children.

Both men acknowledge that they were fairly conservative when they started EFI but agree that if they could do it all again, they would scale the business bigger.

“Our errors helped us learn.” Mr. Hing recalls. “We started Excelsior and planned it small, then it grew this big.”

To which Mr. Holaysan replies, “We cannot undo the past, we’ll just have to plan for the future.”

The official airline of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2019 is Philippine Airlines. Media sponsors are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Banquet sponsors are Global Ferronickel Holdings, Inc., Jollibee, and Uratex.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2019 will be announced on Oct. 15 in an awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2020. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young.

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