“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Plato once said. Great inventions are created by people who see a problem and put in the work to create a solution. This is exactly what father-son Joshua and Sandino Guinto, founders of Bahay Teknik, did.
Bahay Teknik is an enterprise which specializes in creating practical solutions to different environmental problems. Their unique products are their ways to help others address critical issues such as handling organic waste providing cost-saving alternatives in everyday living.
Bahay Teknik beginnings
Bahay Teknik is based in Bicol and started when the Guinto family spotted a problem in their local market at Daet, Camarines Norte.
“We often went to the market, and whenever we go we always see so many [rotten and unsold] vegetables simply being thrown away,” Sandino said in Tagalog. “My parents have an agricultural background, and so did we siblings, so we all felt it was a waste for those [vegetables] to be thrown and dumped in a landfill.” The Guinto family took the organic waste and made it into compost which became one of their first developed products.
Joshua started the idea of creating practical products in 2010 and continued its development until Bahay Teknik was formally registered in 2020.
Although Bahay Teknik is spearheaded by 57-year-old Joshua and 29-year-old Sandino Guinto, the whole family actually has varied backgrounds in agriculture. Joshua Guinto is a graduate of Agricultural Economics from University of the Philippines Los Baños. Sandino Guinto, on the other hand, is a graduate of Landscape Architecture from University of the Philippines Diliman. His mother is also an agri-economics graduate, while his sister graduated from forestry.
With everyone coming from “green” backgrounds, Bahay Teknik had various perspectives and approaches to a problem.
A keen eye for solutions
Bahay Teknik’s compost system wasn’t the only product born from problem-solving.
Their best product, the Taal rocket stove, is a response to the rising prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). “We realized that when we cook, LPG is really expensive,” Sandino said. “So we figured, there are a lot of pili shells and coconut shells here in Bicol, so why don’t we use those as firewood?”
Their rocket stove is a small alternative cookstove which uses wood for cooking, easing the cost of buying LPG for a gas stove. But the rocket stove’s usefulness doesn’t stop at saving gas. After cooking, the embers from the stove can be harvested and converted into biochar. Biochar can be used as a water filter or soil conditioner.
They created more varieties of cookstoves and brick ovens so people could utilize nature and save on buying gas or operating electric stoves. These items are not only available in household sizes, but they are also available in sizes perfect for big eateries and restaurants.
Along with the making of clean cookstoves is the development of a briquette press. The idea for the briquette press is so that unneeded paper, such as finished school modules, in homes or offices can be made into charcoal briquettes for fuel. “It’s one way to deal with the large amount of paper waste and sawdust,” Sandino said. “We’re also testing water hyacinth and other waste materials to be made into a fuel source by the briquette press.”
Bahay Teknik also has products for the avid gardeners or the casual plantitos and plantitas. Their products enable customers to make good use of their kitchen waste through their waste recycling system which uses vermibuckets, or worm buckets. The vermibuckets convert the kitchen waste into fertilizer to be used as nourishment for their favorite plants or gardens.
Speaking of which, a plantito or tita can go bigger and get Bahay Teknik’s pocket garden. The pocket garden is a complete garden system in a bucket. It has 36 pockets, where plants can be placed. It also has a trellis for vine growing and a vermichute, or worm chute, for compost and fertilizer making.
An agribusiness with an advocacy
Bahay Teknik’s goal was never just to sell their products; they also want to educate people of the environmental alternatives to everyday living.
They host free educational webinars on their social media platforms, as well as use YouTube to post tutorials of their products or of discussions on various agricultural topics.
They have also opened their doors to students interested in their enterprise. “Because of our social media presence, there are a lot of high school students who [approach us] and inquire about a possible research problem,” Sandino said, as he recalled the requirement of high school students to conduct a study. “We noticed that a lot of the research problems highschoolers find are what they find online, and not really applicable to the needs of the agricultural sector or the community sector. So, it’s a waste of opportunity.”
Bahay Teknik invites students of nearby campuses to intern in their enterprise so they can have the hands-on experience of an agribusiness. Students are also welcome to schedule a visit and consult with them on their research study. Bahay Teknik then guides these young researchers to more practical and applicable research studies.
Education became a goal for Bahay Teknik, which is why they set up a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Technical Education And Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for supervised industry learning. “It’s so that organic agricultural students can visit us for a few days, get hands-on work and to learn from our experiences,” Sandino said.
And since most students have little background on agriculture, Bahay Teknik wants to help further enrich their research studies. “Our focus for this year is to partner with schools so the [students’] research is more focused and based on the needs of the industry.”
Challenges and limitations
Bahay Teknik is constantly faced with two particular challenges.
“It’s hard to find capital.” Sandino said with a laugh. “We have the advocacy, we have the drive, but, of course, for every step of the business it needs capital.” As his family admittedly isn’t wealthy, any income the business gains is only pumped back in. “Which is why I don’t have a significant other, everything is focused on the business,” he said humorously.
Bahay Teknik actively participates in events held by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and different partnerships to hopefully receive a grant and gain capital for the business.
Another is that Bahay Teknik wasn’t initially big on marketing and sales. Since they came from advocacy and non-government office (NGO) backgrounds, the enterprise didn’t immediately focus on its business aspect. “We were so used to NGO work where you give your all without expecting anything back. But a business won’t work with that model,” said Sandino. They accepted the reality that a business needs to generate money to live on, which is why they had to catch up with learning to market and promote their products more effectively.
The “teknik” to success
Bahay Teknik is proud to have created products that are undoubtedly unique to the local market, and born from resourceful problem-solving. “We didn’t do it to profit– if it profits then that would be great– but our products, advocacies, product lines are because we saw the problems that needed to be fixed in our environment.”
They are also confident that even though competitors would want to follow in their footsteps, they can always remain one step ahead because they have continuous research and development.
For now, Bahay Teknik plans to patent their products and to invest in mechanization for more effective production. They also want to sign more MOAs with different industries to open doors for more opportunities and create linkages.
Bahay Teknik’s ultimate goals are to be packaged as a permaculture approach: from gardening, to clean cooking, and to responsible waste recycling so communities would know them as having the full and complete cycle. Another goal is to expand into consultancy so Sandino could apply his background as a landscape architect into communities. “So we can design communities with the community– to be participative– [and design] based on what they need,” he said.
Sandino encourages everyone to find solutions, even small-scale ones, to problems. “In our (Bahay Teknik’s) own capacity, we tried to find a solution for the agricultural and community sector,” he said.
“So, I’m sure that if we want to help the Philippines and raise our fellow Filipinos, then we can find solutions that can help. Solutions that can be accepted, can be understood, and can be done by our fellow Filipinos.”
Photos courtesy of Bahay Teknik