Indian university seeks agri education, research with SEARCA

UNIVERSITY and government officials of an eastern Indian state on the Bay of Bengal visited the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on November 16, 2023.

The delegates from Odisha came to discuss possible collaborations on research, innovations, scholarships and publications.

They were Prem Chaudhary, Government of Odisha Department of Agriculture and Food Production (ODAFP) 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.

ODAFP is the oldest Odisha agriculture department while OUAT is India's second oldest agricultural university which provides pioneering education, research, extension and outreach in agriculture and related fields.

SEARCA director Glenn Gregorio said the Odisha visitors have met with a SEARCA delegation led by Assoc. Prof. Joselito Florendo, SEARCA deputy director for administration.

Joining Florendo were lawyer Eric Reynoso, Emerging Innovation for Growth Department program head; Lanie Reyes, Applied Knowledge Resources unit head; Donna Bae Malayang, Research and Thought Leadership Department program associate; Sharon Malaiba, Partnerships Unit head; and Partnerships Unit staff.

Gregorio said Florendo gave the Odisha visitors an overview of SEARCA's mandate, programs and offerings and informed them of the center's scholarship program for over 1,900 Southeast Asian nationals with full MS and PhD scholarships, now some of them hold prominent government positions in their home countries.

Also showcased was SEARCA's extensive list of collaborations with the academe, industry, and government in Southeast Asia and beyond.

SEARCA Partnerships Unit head Sharon Malaiba informed the visitors of its network of esteemed universities in Southeast Asia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Taiwan including the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC).

She also mentioned the upcoming International Conference on Coconut Conservation, Valorization and Exchange of Resources and Germplasm for Economic Development (I-Converged).

I-Converged is a collaboration with several industry partners and government institutions, including the International Coconut Community and the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Philippine Coconut Authority and the SEARCA-formulated National Agriculture and Fishery Modernization and Industrialization Plan (NAFMIP 2021-2030) of the Philippines.

NAFMIP is a co-publication with the Asian Development Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and SyCip Gorres Velayo Co.

Malayang tackled the agribiotechnology knowledge events conducted with the United States Department of Agriculture while Reynoso introduced the center's capacity-building activity on the use of the Carbon Wise Rice Information Management System (WRIMS).

WRIMS is 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.

According to Chaudhary, the Odisha government maintains an MRV database with the farmers' data acquired through the global positioning system or GPS "enabling the provision of customized mobile advisories on appropriate farm inputs to the farmers."

"Our government also seeks proposed solutions to pressing agricultural concerns from startup companies," Chaudhary said.

Reynoso also introduced the Grants for Research toward Agricultural Innovative Solutions or GRAINS, which provides starter funds to researchers, scientists, inventors and agripreneurs to scale up their agricultural innovation model.

Reyes said several articles on India were published in SEARCA's international refereed journal Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD), and encouraged the OUAT delegation to invite their faculty and students to submit articles.

Keen on collaborating with SEARCA, Chaudhary noted similarities between the Odisha government and SEARCA saying that "we can schedule a discussion to further learn from each other and identify particular areas where we can synergize."

"We've been tying up with many organizations right now, and so far, we are getting excellent results," Chaudhary told SEARCA.

Meanwhile, Variar said, the very purpose of the discussion is not to reinvent the wheel [and that] there are existing areas where we can start, and through this collaboration, we can accelerate progress in our research and development.