Farmers' reception, is the key to digitalizing agri -SEARCA

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) explained the importance of technology and its applicability towards the farmers during 25th Federation of Crop Science Societies of the Philippines (FCSSP) and the 1st Federation of Plant Science Association of the Philippines (FPSAP) Scientific Conference.

"The reality of digitalizing agriculture is won or lost at the farmer level, where applicability and sustainability have to be tested," Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, Director SEARCA, told more than 350 scientists, researchers, and educators during the four-day event.

FPSAP is composed of the Crop Science Society of the Philippines, the Philippine Seed Industry Association Inc., PhilFruits Association Inc., and the Philippine Association of Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology.

Themed "Converging Sustainability and Precision to Create Digital Plant Science Innovations," the conference is convened at the Apo View Hotel and will run up to September 21.

"At SEARCA, we are working toward elevating the quality of life of farmers by improving their access to new, sustainable, resilient production technologies and systems and help them integrate with modern postharvest and logistics systems," Dr. Gregorio said.

He explained the importance of using technology to achieve Agriculture 4.0, but pointed out that there is resistance to adapt to change by adopting modern technologies because of perceived risks associated with them.

"We have to embrace these changes to actually change the lives of farmers. Let's give these technologies and changes a chance so that we can have a better chance of changing the current state of our farmers," Dr. Gregorio said.

The theme of the conference highlights this need. "Advances in plant science through the form of biotechnology or agro-engineering technology can create various impacts in our society and environment and thus should incorporate sustainable designs for future generations," FPSAP President Ryan Rodrigo P. Tayobong said.

"Plant science and agriculture must be able to cope with how fast new knowledge is generated and technologies change," Dr. Gregorio affirmed.

Speaking from more than 30 years of experience as crop scientist and research manager in international and private institutions, he urged the conference participants: We must be innovative to change for a purpose.

In the next five years, he said SEARCA will focus its efforts to facilitate interconnectedness among the academe, industry, and government in order to contribute to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), particularly on quality education; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; and partnerships for the SDGs, among others.

Dr. Gregorio concludes with a challenge to begin innovative approaches in transforming the agricultural sector: "We have to make agriculture attractive and this begins with changing the mindset of farmers from being producers to agripreneurs and in having a holistic approach to the agricultural value chain."

The conference is jointly organized by FPSAP with the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP) and Southern Mindanao Agriculture Aquatic and Resource Research Development Consortium (SMAARRDEC). It is co-sponsored by SEARCA, Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD); Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); Corteva Agriscience; Monsanto Philippines-Bayer Crop Science; and CropLife Philippines.