Urban Greens is the brainchild of Luxembourg-born entrepreneur Ralph Becker. The man behind the plan went to university in the UK, Paris and Singapore, before taking on a corporate job with Sony Electronics. During his 10-year tenure working in business and product development, he crossed the world, working everywhere from Berlin to Barcelona, from San Francisco to Tokyo.
Through all this experience, Becker always had in mind that he wanted to do something more impactful. In March 2016, he quit Sony Mobile and moved to the Philippines, the birthplace of his mother. There was no concrete plan- he just wanted to get involved in something exciting and meaningful, and Manila’s start-up scene beckoned.
The Struggle to Modernise Agriculture in the Philippines
The Philippines, with a lush tropical climate and soil capable of growing a vast array of crops, has a rich agricultural tradition. But pressures on this tradition are growing: outdated food production methods are failing to keep pace with explosive population growth; climate change is impacting the variability of monsoon rainfall and increasing the severity of droughts; rapid industrialisation is shifting employment to the urban centres; and some within the country are worried that agriculture is being left behind.
Cursory online research alludes to a stagnant industry, struggling with such factors as an ageing workforce; lack of effective training and education; dependency on imported fertilisers and seeds that carry high prices; and poorly developed infrastructure including irrigation, transport and processing centres. The sum result is an overall agricultural system that leaves farmers unsupported, underfunded and de-incentivised.
Ralph says: "Other countries in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, have found success modernising their agricultural systems, but the Philippines has lagged behind." There is no doubt that this situation hurts society as a whole: fresh produce is more expensive in the Philippines than in the U.S. or Europe, even compared to the relative dollar or euro price.