Even without agri background, "Cacao couple" makes good

Picture: The "Cacao Couple" Kenneth and Shiela Reyes-Lao work together to develop new products from Cacao

Seeking a new lifestyle away from the corporate rat-race, and despite having no experience in agriculture, Kenneth and Shiela Reyes- Lao found early success by growing Cacao and making Chocolate products in Davao.

The young couple, now based in the southern Philippine city, grew up and lived lives In Manila before moving there several years ago. Kenneth finished his AB Interdisciplinary studies in the Ateneo de Manila, while Shiela completed her AB political Science degree in De la Salle University. They both met working as IT managers of a logistics conglomerate and decided to make the move after getting married.

“After being employed we actually started with an IT company in Manila but it folded up,” he says. “We moved to Davao in 2016 because we wanted to change our lifestyles, Lao further explains. “We first went to the local office of the Department of Trade and Industry. They mentioned opportunities in Coffee, Cacao, Coconut and fruit trees like Durian and Pomelo,” he added.

They began by attending seminars sponsored by the Cacao Industry Development Asssociation of Mindanao Inc. (CIDAMI) in June 2016 and setup a seedling nursery in September 2016. They eventually got accredited by the Bureau of plant Industry as a Plant Nursery operator supplying quality grafted cacao seedlings of different varieties and farm development services support to private farm owners and cacao growers.

A few months later, they developed products from their grown plants such as Tableya, Cacao Nibs and Cacao Tea, which are now available in Davao City’s pasalubong center, Cacao City and at GOLokal stores in Citymalls and echostore.

Photo: Dark Chocolate bar of Cacao Culture farms

Having been in the business for a since then enabled them to learn a lot from their venture. They are now going beyond the usual tablea. They now have a tea from Cacao leaves. Having been in the business for a few years enabled them to learn a lot from their venture, as they are now going beyond the usual tablea and developing fine chocolate candies and cacao-based cosmetics for a growing market.

Photo: Sample of Cacao Culture farms tea Source: Cacao Culture Farms

Asked about challenges, Kenneth replied that he and Shiela had no backgrounds in Agriculture. “But my experience in doing operations work came in handy,” he said, as he noted his experience in running manufacturing plants in the past. “Early on in college I know that being multiskilled helps,” he adds.

To those thinking of going into agriculture and farming, he has this to say: “Having no agri background should not be a hindrance to venturing into agriculture. We have information at our fingertips, we can always do research online and seek trainings from the private and public sector,” he says.

To know more about Cacao Culture farms, visit www.cacaoculturefarms.com