SETTING THE STANDARD
Hybrid dragon fruits give this family farm a competitive edge in the market
BY VINA MEDINILLA
Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp
Kevin and Krizza Eliscupide of Dragon Fruit Depot in Pulong Yantok, Bulacan, have been growing the ‘superfruit' for the past seven years. The farm stays competitive by offering hybrid and rare kinds of the said fruit. THIS is the family’s attempt to put “the Philippines on the map for the world’s best-tasting dragon fruits.” Dragon fruit production continues to expand across the Philippines, making it more challenging for agripreneurs to stay ahead of the competition. Despite that, Dragon Fruit Depot in Pulong Yantok, Bulacan, which has been growing the ‘superfruit’ for the past seven years, stays competitive by offering hybrid and rare kinds of the said fruit. Among the co-owners of the 32-hectare family property are Kevin and Krizza Eliscupides, a couple of professionals in the medical field. “I have zero background in farming but my brother-in-law, Pernelle Ignacio, who is also a part-owner of the farm, introduced me to the dragon fruit world,” said Kevin. Ignacio gets his knowledge of growing dragon fruits from their uncle who, they said, is one of the pioneers of dragon fruit cultivation in the Philippines. Ignacio currently oversees and provides training and seminars on the farm. He also gets help and support from his mother, Ping Ignacio, who is among the 12 siblings and inheritors of the land where Dragon Fruit Depot stands today. The next generation farmers in the family, including Pernelle, said that if their grandparents’ legacy was mango trees, they, on the other hand, want to pass down dragon fruits to succeeding generations. The family’s interest in dragon fruit stems from the time when one family member was diagnosed with cancer. After learning that the fruit is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which can play a role in cancer prevention, they began populating their farm with dragon fruits. From the common red variety, the family grew their collection and began importing varieties from other countries. As of this writing, Dragon Fruit Depot is home to over 200 dragon fruit types that vary in flavor profile, shape, color, and weight. “They are very unique from each other. Some have flavors [that are similar to] berries, kiwi, grapes, guava, coconut, and more.” Dragon Fruit Depot has roughly two hectares of dragon fruit trees, and the family plans to expand following this year’s fruiting season, which ends in November. Aside from the fruit’s health benefits, cultivating dragon fruits does not demand much labor, either. Kevin stressed that since this tropical fruit is a member of the Cactaceae or cactus family, it has a sturdy stem and is highly resilient to extreme heat, making it a good fit for local production. It also has a long fruiting season, lasting from May to November. “This season could be prolonged or extended by artificial lighting, and a farm could possibly produce fruits all year round.” This Bulacan farm specializes in hybrid dragon fruits because they find them sweeter and more flavorful than local or common varieties. Hybrid cultivars are not extensively grown in the Philippines, which is also one of the reasons why they continue to produce and promote them. “We provide free training and seminars to build a group that can meet the supply demands [of hybrid dragon fruits] here and abroad.” This is the family’s attempt to put “the Philippines on the map for the world’s best-tasting dragon fruits.” They have also entered the global market by exporting dragon fruit cuttings to other countries, with the United States, India, and Greece being the top three. Whether in a backyard or on a farm, the family said that dragon fruits are manageable to grow in the Philippines. The family’s story shows how going above and beyond the standard is one way to differentiate yourself in the market and boost your agribusiness’ profitability.