Dr. Justino Arboleda is a university dean, a winner of the BBC’s World Challenge for innovation, and a trilingual engineer with a PhD from Tokyo University. But in the rural farming communities of Bicol, Philippines where he built his factory and spends most of his time, everyone calls Dr. Arboleda “Bo.”
We met Bo two years ago when we were looking for natural fiber suppliers in the Philippines. We had an inkling that coconut husks would be the key, but it felt like a wide gulf between the academic papers we’d read and the manufacturing capacity we needed. We traded emails with Bo and headed down to his coconut fiber factory a couple days later for what we thought was an introductory conversation. Bo and his team greeted us with a full working prototype.
This can-do attitude is Bo’s defining feature. After steadily working his way up the academic world from scholarship student to doctoral researcher to Dean of Bicol University, Bo felt compelled to “stop talking” and start making a real difference in the poor agricultural province he comes from. With a parcel of land from his father-in-law and tireless support from his wife and Bicol University colleague Julie, Bo resigned his tenured position and set to work utilizing the region’s most abundant and overlooked resource: coconut husks.
Bo sees a strong, durable, abundant material in coconut husks where others see piles of trash. Beginning with simple braided ropes, Bo developed a coconut fiber lattice product that stabilizes hillsides better than any synthetic alternative. Then he and his team organized hundreds of rural coconut farming families into a husk processing and supply network that produces several tons of partially-finished fiber rope every month—a brand new income stream spun straight out of their garbage heap.
Bo and Julie have faced every conceivable challenge over the intervening 25 years, from nonexistent credit to destructive typhoons to corruption and political unrest. Bo’s unwavering commitment to his farmers, employees, and vision for a better future has ushered in economic development and technical breakthroughs, but it hasn’t always redounded to his business’ bottom-line.
We are privileged to leverage Bo’s expertise and provide consistent revenue for his factory and his network of coconut farmers with the Nutshell Cooler.
Next we’ll show you how that first prototype was redesigned and reimagined to make Nutshell, the modern, sustainable, folding coolers that people are going nuts about.