16 October 2020
The importance of integrating omics in a crop breeding program from variety development up to commercialization was discussed by Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), at the recent Mindanao-wide webinar on “Omics Research, Moving Past Pandemics: Omics in Agriculture.”
Omics is an emerging field of scientific technology that involves the study of molecular interactions found in living organisms, Dr. Gregorio explained.
Organized by the Philippine Genome Center Mindanao, the webinar focused on potential applications, challenges, and solutions of omics technologies in mitigating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Gregorio proposed a modern breeding program that includes laying out breeding strategies in a crop master plan that will also include crop market analysis or market intelligence, and strength-weakness-opportunity-threat analysis by market segment.
“The future for crop improvement in the tropics is incredibly bright, built on a strengthening collaboration between the academic community and commercial crop breeders. Crop improvement seems slow in the view of business and other disciplines since developing commercially ready products takes a long process. Many are impatient with this process and offer better techniques and tools to shorten it but still fail in the implementation of a new breeding program and much more in the commercialization stage,” he said.
Dr. Gregorio noted that omics research has been adversely affected by issues in agriculture, including increased productivity, product quality, resistance to pest and diseases, market of produce, climate change, and the ASEAN Economic integration.
Moreover, he pointed out that “the recent levelling off in rice yields highlighted the need to introduce new sources of germplasm, genetic variation, and modern breeding techniques into existing rice breeding program.”
“Even with no change in harvested area, what needs to be done is to increase the rice production or cereal demand in the next 10 years. We need to mechanize our farmlands and adapt digital agriculture; use smart seeds which are high-quality, pest and disease resistant, and climate change ready,” Dr. Gregorio said.
He emphasized the innovative ways in conducting research and extension by considering the business component, value addition to produce, and market-driven and product-oriented research for development.
“The reality of genomics in agriculture is won or lost at the farmer and consumer level, where applicability and sustainability are tested,” Dr. Gregorio concluded.
14 October 2020, Los Baños, Laguna
SEARCA launches “innovEIGhts” model for open collaboration in Emerging Innovation for Growth in agriculture
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) unveiled today, October 14, its Emerging Innovation for Growth (EIG) Program powered by the “SEARCA innovEIGhts” model of open collaboration for academe-industry-government partnerships.
During the virtual launch event livestreamed by Facebook and Zoom, SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio said “the current situation has given us more opportunity to highlight the importance of agriculture. Moreover, technology and innovation, especially digitalization in agriculture, is more than ever crucial in the time of COVID-19.”
He noted the challenging task of ushering our farmers from obsolete ways of farming, limited to a production perspective, towards an agribusiness mindset in an innovative agriculture ecology called Agriculture 4.0—a concept of the future of agriculture focusing on the use of big data, Internet of Things (IoT), precision farming, and disruptive agriculture for increased business efficiency. He stressed that this requires working together with partners and organizations who share this goal.
“That is why under SEARCA’s recently launched 11th Five-Year Plan with an overarching theme of Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN), we commit to introduce innovations and platforms that will benefit stakeholders in agriculture,” Dr. Gregorio said.
Its 11th Five-Year Plan pushes SEARCA to achieve multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder transformational changes through agricultural innovations. The Emerging Innovations for Growth Program was thus established to develop pioneering innovation and technology incubation programs, platforms, policies, protocols, and partnerships.
“SEARCA’s InnovEIGhts model will support, facilitate, and implement co-created and co-piloted agribusiness incubation, information and technology transfer projects, and impact- and action-driven extension and technical assistance engagement for Southeast Asia,” said SEARCA Emerging Innovation for Growth Program lead Dr. Rico C. Ancog.
He said the innovEIGhts components consist of “INDEX” for gap analysis and best practices benchmark, “SERVES” to provide farmer advisory support for innovation, “iDEATES” to come up with practical and technical solutions, “BLOCKS” for rapid prototyping of inclusive technology, “A4LIFE” to build an agribusiness incubation network, and “SPACE” to be the platform for open innovative collaboration.
“We’re now calling for open collaboration, which is the kind of culture that SEARCA would like to operationalize. We are therefore here to partner with institutions from the academe, industry, and government. We are reaching out to donors and co-funders. We are ready to co-pilot innovative projects with co-implementers. We are here to join hands with co-enablers towards realizing Agriculture 4.0,” Dr. Ancog said.
He stressed that “what we hope to achieve are outcomes or solutions that can be described as transformational innovation. Such solutions may include technology adaptation, prototypes, and agripreneurship start-ups towards making a positive impact on all the players in the agricultural value chain, from the producers to consumers, and in the lives of farming families not just in the Philippines but across Southeast Asia.”
Ms. Ana Margarita ‘Ginggay’ Hontiveros-Malvar, Senior Adviser for GoNegosyo AgriPreneurship, and Mr. Paco Magsaysay, CEO of Carmen’s Best Ice Cream, keynoted the SEARCA innovEIGhts launch event. They shared their agripreneurship journey and lessons learned along the way.
Agripreneur and media star Mr. Nico Bolzico, Founder and President of LM10 Corporation and Siempre Direct Corporations, which help agribusinesses from investing in projects to providing innovative technologies in agriculture, also supported the launch event.
“Thank you so much for pushing for innovative agriculture. I think it is something our country really needs. I think the Philippines has a lot of potential. It’s just a matter of communicating and showing people how much can be done in agriculture in the Philippines and also how important agriculture is in the Philippines. If you think about it, everything comes from the land. And agriculture is probably the only sector that is present everywhere and is the primary sector that we need to have developed,” Mr. Bolzico said in a pre-recorded video.
He reiterated the value of collaboration, which is at the heart of SEARCA innovEIGhts, saying “there’s a lot of talent in the Philippines; there’s a lot of very brilliant people and it’s just a matter of getting them together, having a common objective and pushing for it.”
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