Mr. Prem Chaudhary, Government of Odisha Department of Agriculture and Food Production director; Prof. Pravat Kumar Roul, vice chancellor, and Dr. Tushar Ranjan Mohanty, agrometeorologist, both of the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT); and Dr. Mukund Variar, Odisha-International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) state coordinator, paid a courtesy visit to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on 16 November 2023 to discuss possible collaborations on research, innovations, scholarships, and publications.
The Directorate of Agriculture and Food Production is the oldest Odisha Agriculture Department. OUAT, on the other hand, is the second oldest agricultural university in India, which provides pioneering education, research, extension, and outreach in agriculture and related fields.
During the meeting, the visitors were given an overview of the Center's mandate, programs, and offerings.
Assoc. Prof. Joselito Florendo, SEARCA deputy director for administration, informed the delegation of the Center's scholarship program, which has already benefitted over 1,900 Southeast Asian nationals with full MS and PhD scholarships, some of whom now hold prominent government positions in their home countries.
Moreover, he showcased the Center's extensive list of collaborations with the academe, industry, and government in Southeast Asia and beyond.
Ms. Sharon Malaiba, unit head for Partnerships, imparted some examples, including the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC), a network of esteemed universities in Southeast Asia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Taiwan.
She also discussed the upcoming International Conference on Coconut Conservation, Valorization, and Exchange of Resources and Germplasm for Economic Development (I-CONVERGED), a collaboration with several industry partners and government institutions, including the International Coconut Community and the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Coconut Authority (DA-PCA) and the SEARCA-formulated National Agriculture and Fishery Modernization and Industrialization Plan (NAFMIP 2021–2030) of the Philippines, a co-publication with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the SyCip Gorres Velayo Co. (SGV).
Additionally, Ms. Donna Bae Malayang, program associate of SEARCA's Research and Thought Leadership Department, talked about the agribiotechnology knowledge events conducted with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Atty. Eric Reynoso, program head, Emerging Innovation for Growth Department, highlighted the Center's capacity-building activity on the use of the Carbon Wise Rice Information Management System, a web-based measurement monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) tool that allows farmers to input farm activity data, which are then used to calculate carbon emissions.
With that, Mr. Chaudhary shared that the Odisha Government maintains an MRV database with the farmers' data acquired through the global positioning system (GPS), enabling the provision of customized mobile advisories on appropriate farm inputs to the farmers.
Atty. Reynoso also introduced the Grants for Research towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS), which provides starter funds to researchers, scientists, inventors, and agripreneurs to scale up their agricultural innovation model. Mr. Chaudhary revealed that their government also seeks proposed solutions to pressing agricultural concerns from startup companies.
Furthermore, Ms. Lanie Reyes, unit head for Applied Knowledge Resources, mentioned that several articles on India were published in the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD), SEARCA's international refereed journal. She encouraged the OUAT delegation to invite their faculty and students to submit articles.
Recognizing the similarities between the institutions, Mr. Chaudhary was keen on collaborating with SEARCA.
"We've been tying up with many organizations right now, and so far, we are getting excellent results," Mr. Chaudhary stated. "We can schedule a discussion to further learn from each other and identify particular areas where we can synergize," he further said.
"The very purpose of the discussion is not to reinvent the wheel," Dr. Variar remarked. "There are existing areas where we can start, and through this collaboration, we can accelerate progress in our research and development," he added.
Assoc. Prof. Florendo led the SEARCA delegation in welcoming the visitors. With him were Atty. Reynoso, Ms. Reyes, Ms. Malaiba, Ms. Malayang, and Partnerships Unit staff.