Who was once a working student, hopping from job to job, and who had to sleep at the ceiling of his school is now one of the most successful farm owners in Oriental Mindoro.
“I’ve had a time when I slept at the ceiling of the school when I was a working student so I can have a place to rest.”
Mr. Nelson Diona grew up in a broken family, with only his grandparents to take care of him. He describes his childhood as not picture perfect, having to endure physical works in the farm during his supposed to be playtime to save money for school and himself. Working hard from rice fields to rice fields, Mr. Diona had developed his natural interest in agriculture and invested his accumulated earnings in buying cattle. With a capital starting from PhP 10,000, he was able to purchase two (2) cattle heads— a cow and its calf.
Even though he was able to graduate college with a computer science degree he saw greener pastures through agriculture and decided to devote himself to the craft as his source of living. At the age of 25, he was able to own 56 cows which he then sold to invest in hogs and venture in swine raising.
Mr. Diona started out small, with nothing but guts to spare and small amount of resources he put into farming to realize his dream. He took different courses on Animal Husbandry and went through intensive self-study, experiments, and participation to trainings to formulate a successful feed ration for swine-raising. He used his learnings to start “Red Gate Farm Supplies” named for the farm’s iconic gate that serves as a landmark for the locals. Red Gate Farm Supplies is known to be a home to farm animals and milling facility for animal feeds.
He used the self-formulated feeds to his animals— from starter mash to lactating mash. That time, the average daily production of his firm is composed of 7 bags of starter mash, 14 grower mash, 5 breeder mash, and 2 bags of lactating mash to fully support the daily feed requirements of 60 heads sow and 500 fatteners that he owns. These were produced by 8 production workers manually, with a low capacity hammer mill as the only machine owned by the firm. The corn was solar-dried, and shovels were used for feed mixing.
With his fondness in learning, Mr. Diona even took another course in automotive technology to nurture his interest in machines and equipment. He is also a certified computer technician and electrician.
Then Mr. Diona took a brave step that changed his farm operation for the better. In 2016, he became interested with the SETUP after DOST-MIMAROPA spoke before the association of buffalo raisers in Gloria town, where he was the president.
Despite being able to develop its own formulated high-dense quality rations for feeds, mass production remains largely unexplored due to limited production equipment. Through SETUP, the firm was able to acquire up to date feed production equipment including the horizontal feed mixer, hammer mill, and a rotary-type mechanical dryer.
Now, aside from being able to produce larger volume of feeds with the equipment provided by DOST, consistency in quality of the feeds was improved. The mixer can uniformly incorporate even the smallest amount of ingredient to a large volume of produce without going through labor-intensive mixing of raw materials. With the improved productivity, he was able to market his products to other interested animal raisers in the province.
“Who would need a technician or a mechanic when I can design and maintain them myself’, he’d say. His knowledge in machines allowed him to ensure smooth production operation. And that same knowledge, he imparts to his people.
Mr. Diona proudly stated that about more than half of what he has now is from DOST for entrusting him with the innovation he had always wanted. Red Gate Farm Supplies is also now expanding its operations by upgrading its building and purchasing one (1) 10-wheeler container van using the income generated from the business. “The truck is from DOST also. Because of the grace period and no interest added in monthly refunds, I was able to invest the profit for that,” he added talking about his new truck with the hydraulic body system he designed.
He was also able to design his very own low-powered hammer mill that can produce 1 ton milled ingredient for an hour by using a 10 hp single phase motor. His design included a built-in separator that segregates milled corn and corn grits. DOST-MIMAROPA is now encouraging Mr. Diona to apply his invention a Utility Model from IPOPHIL.
Now, he wishes to give back. He finds great joy in training and mobilizing new farmers with proper farming techniques to help them provide for their families. Every now and then, he accepts invitations to give inspiring talks to different events and allows them to visit Red Gate Fam and Supplies.
Mr. Diona also aims to offer scholarship in agriculture to deserving students whenever he is able, knowing the importance of education for a successful future. “When the right time comes, I definitely will fulfill this goal.”