PAKBET CRACKERS. Marvin Vea receives the PHP30,000 cash prize for his "pakbet crackers." With him in the photo are Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Office head Elma Gabriel, Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta Marcos, and provincial social welfare and development officer Lilian Rin. (Contributed)

LAOAG CITY – Seeing organic lowland vegetables being rejected at the public market where fertilizer-grown produce are preferred has sparked an idea for 24-year-old Marvin Xavier Vea of Solsona, Ilocos Norte.

Instead of discarding them for composting or for use as animal feeds, Vea thought of processing them into "pinakbet crackers" that children could enjoy as an alternative and healthy snack.

Vea’s pakbet crackers, which come with natural ingredients such as flour, eggplant, okra, squash, string beans, bitter gourd, onions, tomato, ginger, egg, salt, and flavoring, have been recognized as the grand winner in the latest search for the most innovative agri-based emergency food reserve or food nutrition security.

Spearheaded by the provincial Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Office (MSMEO) under the Ilocos Norte government, the search was open to all entrepreneurs including students aged 18 and above.

MSMEO head Elma Gabriel said Monday that the competition aimed to maximize the use of available resources in the province with a potential market here and abroad.

Vea, born to a farming family in remote Bagbago village, said he was only wishing for a "consolation" prize but ended up emerging on top among 30 qualified entries and bringing home the PHP30,000 cash prize.

Vea plans to add his pakbet crackers to the roster of food products being sold at their family-run farm and targeted for school kids not so fond of eating vegetables.

“Our target consumers would be the pre-schoolers and those in the primary including those affected by calamities including our local tourists and visitors,” Vea told the Philippine News Agency.

With an investment PHP44,800 and operating expenses of PHP214,460, Vea said their pakbet crackers will soon be out in the local market with an introductory price of PHP80 per pack.

“We are scaling up the production with 4,000 packs produced monthly,” he added.

In support of the most innovative and promising local entrepreneurs in the province, the MSMEO, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Mariano Marcos State University continue to assist entrepreneurs through a mentoring program to further improve their products. (PNA)