In the late 1990s, Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, the chairman of SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC) was inspired by the success to China in building a legacy of combating food shortages and hunger, and becoming a surplus producer and exporter of rice through the successful development of hybrid rice seeds.
During that time, Lim didn’t know how rice was produced, its annual production, and how many hectares and farmers were involved in rice farming. So he embarked on a long and intense research. His continued research led him to go to China and meet Prof. Yuan Long Ping, a Chinese agricultural scientist and educator considered to be the “Father of Hybrid Rice”, as he is known for developing the first hybrid rice variety in China in 1973. Lim asked Prof. Yuan for technical guidance on the hybrid seeds technology and they eventually formed a partnership for the development of hybrid rice varieties suitable to tropical condition in the Philippines.
The research and development of several hybrid rice parental lines initially started in a parcel of land leased from the provincial government of Laguna in October 1999. Shortly after, Lim procured a 40-hectare farm, with good isolation and irrigation in Brgy. Oogong, Sta. Cruz, Laguna where he built a research and development facility especially dedicated to the production of hybrid rice seeds.
This was the start of SLAC, which was formally incorporated on September 11, 2000 with the primary purpose of promoting the development, commercialization and growth of hybrid rice technology. Underlying this objective is a commitment to bring employment and entrepreneurship to the rural areas and stimulate economic growth.
At present, SLAC has more than 3,000 people in its research, production and administrative facilities located in Makati City, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Davao Region. It now has three commercial hybrid rice seeds, the SL-8H, SL-12H and SL-18H which are all proven to be high-yielding varieties that could thrive on both wet and dry seasons. These are being distributed in the Philippines and exported to Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India.
Aside from the production of commercial hybrid seeds, the company is also involved in milled rice production through a network of contract growers who exclusively grow the Doña Maria® Premium Quality Rice and Willy Farms® Rice. These packaged rice products are available in major supermarkets and are being used by hotels, restaurants and catering services all over the Philippines. The company also exports its premium rice to North America, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Israel, Pakistan, Australia, Singapore, Guam and Marshall Islands.
The success of SLAC is not aptly measured in terms of people employed, revenue and expanded distribution channels both locally and internationally, but on the impact it is making in the lives of thousands of farmers who plant SL hybrid seed varieties. This is the reason why it is committed to continue its social efforts in gearing farmers to convert from inbred to hybrid seeds to be able to transform the agricultural landscape, attain rice self-sufficiency and increase rice yields. It also encourages farmers to be entrepreneurs while shifting the mindset and attitude towards the advantages and benefits of hybrid rice.