SEARCA Center Director spotlights agri education's role in Agri 4.0 in ICAST 2024

  • By Zara Mae Estareja
  • 1 April 2024

PAMPANGA, Philippines—Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Center director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), spotlighted agricultural education's role in revolutionizing the agriculture sector during the 1st International Conference on Agricultural Sciences and Technology (ICAST) 2024 held on 13–15 March 2024 at the Royce Hotel in Clark, Angeles City.

SEARCA Center Director spotlights agri education's role in Agri 4.0 in ICAST 2024

Under the theme, "Digitally Sustaining Our Future: Exploring the Application of Emerging Technologies for Food Security and Sustainability," the conference showcased productive discussions and exchanges on the benefits of smart farming technologies and innovations, circular economy, agribusiness, and agricultural extension and development.

In his keynote address on the dynamics of agriculture in the ASEAN setting, Dr. Gregorio advocated for a shift from traditional practices to systemic and integrated innovations and urged Filipino farmers to be innovative agricultural entrepreneurs.

He underscored how the ever-changing agricultural landscape caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution led to a paradigm shift in agricultural education.

"In the future, there will be a greater emphasis on training students in using advanced technologies, such as precision agriculture systems, drones, and robotics and data analytics focusing on optimizing crop yields, predicting weather patterns, and managing pests and diseases," Dr. Gregorio explained.

"These technologies can help farmers increase crop yields, reduce waste and labor, and improve profitability," he added.

SEARCA Center Director spotlights agri education's role in Agri 4.0 in ICAST 2024Dr. Gregorio also stressed agricultural education's role in the evolving social and environmental landscape.

"The students must be adept at sustainable farming practices, farmers' markets, and consumer trends to meet the demands of consumers. They must understand environmental issues like climate change, soil erosion, and water usage and learn how to implement solutions to combat these problems," he asserted.

Additionally, Dr. Gregorio introduced SEARCA's initiatives to promote technology adoption, including the Innovation Olympics 2.0, an agri hackathon, wherein young innovators developed solutions to the challenges faced by urban and rural smallholder vegetable farmers 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).

SEARCA Center Director spotlights agri education's role in Agri 4.0 in ICAST 2024Maejo University President and former SEARCA scholar Dr. Weerapon Thongma also presented at the conference and discussed his university's current innovations for food security and sustainable agriculture.

The conference was graced by other distinguished guests and speakers, including Dr. William Dar, former secretary of the Philippine Department of Agriculture; Dr. Satoru Tsuchikawa, president of the Asian Association of Agricultural Colleges and Universities (AAACU); Dr. Karen Bautista, president of the Philippine Association of Agriculturists (PAA) National; and Dr. Elpidio Agbisit, Jr., dean of the University of Los Baños-College of Agriculture and Food Science.

SEARCA, through its Partnerships Unit and Emerging Innovations for Growth Department, hosted an institutional exhibit at the conference highlighting its publications on food security, climate resilience, and natural resource management and information materials on its programs and services.

ICAST 2024 was spearheaded by PAA Region III - Tamarind Chapter and the Pampanga Agricultural State University (PSAU) under the guidance of their presidents, Dr. Hermogenes Paguia and Dr. Anita David, respectively. SEARCA, AAACU, and the Sustainable Agriculture Food and Energy (SAFE) Network served as conference co-organizers.