Universities and colleges can spark agri food systems transformation

13 August 2020

Universities and colleges can spark agri food systems transformation

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the connections between supply chains and our consumption patterns, and the urgent need to redefine agricultural systems as food systems. A systemic view of agricultural food systems is imperative for the needed transformation, which should stem right from the hallowed halls of the universities and colleges.”

This was the analysis of Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio and Dr. Rico C. Ancog of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), a regional think tank hosted by the Philippine government. Headed by Dr. Gregorio, SEARCA is committed to elevating the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets. Dr. Ancog leads SEARCA’s Emerging Innovation for Growth program.

They see that higher education institutions (HEIs) can further reorient their research and development from a business perspective toward systemic change of the agriculture sector.

SEARCA promotes the active engagement of universities and colleges in Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) interconnectivity models on research collaboration and co-sharing of financial resources, to shorten the gap between research and knowledge utilization, the authors said.

“This includes contextualizing research projects within larger value chains,” they stressed.

In a policy paper, Dr. Gregorio and Dr. Ancog explained that under the AIG interconnectivity model, universities and colleges can design and implement digital agriculture infrastructure and open innovation systems across the agricultural supply chains.

They added that HEIs can also conduct collaborative knowledge generation through joint publications, patenting, technology transfer systems, and business incubation.

Moreover, they said HEIs can encourage and support innovation throughout the research process from

conceptualization, implementation and data generation, analysis, and synthesis aimed to contribute public value.

The SEARCA experts noted that for agriculture to secure food for the world’s growing population even prior to the pandemic, it already needs to produce more with less—more in terms of yield, income, and social inclusivity; and less in terms of unnecessary inputs, energy consumption, and environmental impacts.

They pointed out that “on the supply side, drastic change in both individual and collective behavior is needed toward responsible consumption.”

Dr. Gregorio reiterated the importance of the demand and the supply chain in R&D in an online forum on scientific excellence and relevance convened by the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) last August 10.

“On the demand side, we should ask what people would really need from R&D. On the supply side, we should ask what we should expect to be generated from R&D,” he said.

Dr. Gregorio echoed the major priorities recommended by the SEARCA policy paper in order to maximize human capital in the academe for the needed agricultural food system transformation, as follows: (1) provide the enabling environment for faculty members and researchers to engage in mutual learning and co-learning through the establishment of multi- and interdisciplinary research laboratories, centers, and institutes; (2) incentivize scientific productivity that values accomplishments beyond publications (e.g., people, partnerships, patents, product, and profit); (3) retool faculty members and researchers across the full spectrum of intellectual property rights, including technology transfer system, technology-based incubation, and entrepreneurship; (4) provide more faculty and research grants and extension awards that enable faculty and students to engage with industry, private companies, community beneficiaries, and other stakeholders across the agricultural supply chain; (5) rearticulate projects started prior to the pandemic along a country’s COVID-19 responses; and (6) craft creative research proposals related

to COVID-19.

“HEIs are key players in society’s overall ability to achieve the aspired food security and economic development. But they can aspire to contribute beyond—toward an economic development that is sustainable, inclusive, environment-friendly, and most importantly, resilient to current and future pandemics and other unanticipated disruptions,” Dr. Gregorio concluded.

Gulayan sa pamayanan project takes off at NCR’s three barangays

 As a way of ensuring food security in Metro Manila, the project gave materials initially to three barangays to jumpstart their vegetable garden using urban gardening technologies, such as the Enriched Potting Preparation (EPP) and Simple Nutrient Addition Program (SNAP) Hydroponics. This initiative is part of the GALING-PCAARRD Kontra COVID-19 Program of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD). GALING stands for Good Agri-Aqua Livelihood Initiatives towards National Goals.

One of the Program’s component projects is “Gulayan sa Pamayanan,” which aims to provide science and technology (S&T)- based livelihood on vegetable gardening in Metropolitan areas. The project is currently establishing urban gardens in selected areas in Metro Manila. Community leaders and members have been undertaking capacity-building exercises and training on S&T-based urban gardening technologies. The project hopes to increase vegetable availability among households and communities and meet their food needs especially during COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOST-National Capital Region, through the leadership of Director Jose B. Patalinjug III and Ms. Elvin B. Almazar, implements the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project under the guidance and monitoring of the Agricultural Resources Management Research Division of DOST-PCAARRD.

Deployment of EPP kits in NCR

DOST-NCR and PCAARRD distributed EPP supplies to family beneficiaries in Las Piñas City, Paranaque City, and Sampaloc Manila. In Brgy. CAA, Las Piñas City, a total of 720 kits of EPP supplies including 30 bags of compost and 170 liters of Compost Soil Extract (CSE) nutrient solution for six tower gardens and two vertical gardens were deployed. Each tower garden can have nine EPP pots while the vertical garden can hold a total of 22 EPP pots. Also deployed were one coco coir net greenhouse, seedbed preparation, seedlings, and cuttings. Training on the preparation of EPP bottles and technique on seedbed preparation, transplanting, and crop maintenance were done to capacitate the beneficiaries.

In Brgy. BF Homes, Phase 3 in Parañaque City, DOST-NCR delivered agricultural supplies and conducted a training on EPP technology. Supplies include 150 EPP kits, 10 bags of compost and 50 liters of CSE to cover five tower gardens and two verticals gardens. They were also provided with one coco coir net greenhouse, seeds, and seedlings.

InBrgy. 412, Sampaloc, Manila, 380 EPP kits, 10 bags of compost, 80 liters of CSE, one coco coir net greenhouse, and seeds were given to the community to cover three tower gardens and one vertical garden. The beneficiaries had set up the EPP in their communal garden fence made of steel matting.

Dr. Eduardo P. Paningbatan, the EPP technology developer, conducted the trainings in all three barangays. The EPP setups were already displayed in a communal garden in each project site.

The communities are also preparing their area for the setup of SNAP hydroponics. To ensure the operation’s sustainability, the leaders and officers of the community will manage the production and distribution of vegetables (Jacob B. Labita DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services).


Urban gardening technologies during corona virus lockdowns

Gardening for food in the city where land and space are limited was once impossible to urban settlers. Now, urban gardening is gaining interest in the cities especially in Metro Manila. This interest to plant more has become a growing possibility for city dwellers. The COVID-19 lockdown periods have driven most of them to plant their own food at their own homes. Besides, government programs are pushing for urban gardening to address food security and nutritional well-being of the Filipinos.

 Of the many technologies, vegetable urban gardening is the most feasible and adaptable for “stay at homes.” With the right production system, materials, and inputs, one can enjoy harvesting fresh clean, ready-to-cook veggies right at their own space. The households are not just the ones who can benefit; communities with idle lands can be converted into communal urban gardens and serve as a venue for hands-on trainings and seminars.

The GALING-PCAARRD Kontra COVID-19 program has “Gulayan sa Pamayanan” as one of its component projects. This project seeks to provide science and technology (S&T)-based livelihood on vegetable gardening in Metropolitan areas as a means to address concerns on food availability and accessibility.

Under this project, two urban gardening technologies are being initially adopted in Metro Manila. These are Enriched Potting Preparation (EPP) and Simple Nutrient Addition Program (SNAP) hydroponics technologies. The Department of Science and Technology-National Capital Region (DOST-NCR) has already deployed EPP kits to selected barangays in Las Pinas, Paranaque, and Sampaloc, Manila. SNAP kits will soon be deployed also in these areas.

DOST-NCR implements the “Gulayan sa Pamayanan” project with monitoring guidance from DOST’s- Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development through its Agricultural Resources Management Research Division (PCAARRD-ARMRD).

Enriched Potting Preparation

EPP production technology was developed by Dr. Eduardo P. Paningbatan, Jr., a retired Professor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). He formulated the Compost Soil Extract (CSE) nutrient solution. EPP technology uses compost, coco husk, CSE, and recyclable softdrink bottles as containers for the potting medium. According to Dr. Paningbatan, the EPP technology provides urban families with healthy and pesticide-free vegetables such as lettuce, “kangkong,” and tomato. It allows growing of herbs such as basil, oregano, and rosemary for food seasoning, health, and medicine and ornamentals such as Euphorbia, cactus, and daisy. EPP plants can be hung or set to a stand in places where there is available sunlight for at least three hours.

SNAP Hydroponics

The SNAP package of technology and the nutrient solution was developed by Dr. Primitivo Jose A. Santos and Ms. Eureka Teresa M. Ocampo of the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the Philippines Los Banos (IPB-UPLB).

SNAP is a soilless vegetable production, which uses styrofoam boxes, styrofoam cups, growing media, and SNAP nutrient solution. According to IPB-UPLB, SNAP hydroponics is  best for home-based vegetable production and ideal for small spaces typical in urban areas. It is simple to set-up, maintain and operate since it only requires enough sunlight, air movement, and protection from rain. Aside from this, SNAP does not need electricity compared to other hydroponics system since it incorporates passive aeration of the nutrient solution used. SNAP hydroponics can be set up in green houses, terraces, and house awnings.

Both EPP and SNAP Hydroponics technologies for urban gardening are inexpensive as most of the materials needed to set up the system are recycled materials. They also require less manpower and less maintenance (Ofelia F. Domingo, DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services).