Mapua, SEARCA eye collaboration on agri research

TO explore and discuss possible areas for collaboration on agricultural research and innovation, Mapua University, led by its President and Chief Executive Officer Dodjie Maestrecampo, visited the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

Joining Maestrecampo in his August 22 visit were Mapua School of Graduate Studies Dean Jonathan Salvacion; School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Dean Aldrin Calderon; and School of Electrical Electronics and Computer Engineering faculty member Febus Reidj Cruz.

They were welcomed by SEARCA director Dr. Glen Gregorio, with Dr. Nur Azura Adam, deputy director for programs; Dr. Maria Cristeta Cuaresma, Education and Collective Learning Department senior program head; lawyer Eric Reynoso, Emerging Innovations for Growth Department (EIGD) program head; Sharon Malaiba, unit head, Partnerships; Beatrisa Martinez, executive coordinator, Office of the Director; and Partnerships Unit staff.

Gregorio also provided the visitors with an exclusive tour of the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation, or SHARING.

During their meeting with SEARCA officials, the visitors were given an overview of the center's mandate and its 11th Five-Year Plan and were also introduced to the center's core programs, primarily focusing on the Emerging Innovations for Growth Department.

Both SEARCA and Mapua University teams agreed to draft a memorandum of understanding with Gregorio, who remarked that the partnership between SEARCA and Mapua could serve as a model for future alliances with other universities and colleges.

Mapua University, one of the top universities in the Philippines and Asia, has leading-edge excellence in engineering, architecture and design, and information technology. It aims to be more relevant and impactful with its renewed vision of fostering society's sustainable socioeconomic growth through innovation, digital transformation and lifelong learning.

Salvacion said the university seeks partnerships with relevant institutions to realize this vision, emphasizing that Mapua University is committed not only to academic research but also to initiatives that benefit people and society at large.

He also shared their research, development and innovation (RDI) programs, which spotlight research, business innovation, knowledge and technology transfer, and information technology.

"We can see an intersection between what we do and SEARCA's thrust," Maestrecampo said.

Calderon also underscored the crucial role of engineering in improving agricultural production to meet growing food demand.

While Gregorio remarked that "all innovations start from engineering and that we at SEARCA are the experts in agriculture," he said the center needs an engineering team, to which Maestrecampo agreed to lend their expertise in engineering and technology.

According to Salvacion and Cruz, the university's technology enterprise collaborations, including partnerships, are with the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

They shared notable projects of the university, which included the Localized Weather, Environment and Hydromet Monitoring System (Wehlo), a 24/7 localized weather-impact monitoring system designed to assist local government units in mitigating the effects of severe weather events.

Another is the automated identification system, or AIS, a tool that provides real-time information on the movements and locations of ships to track and monitor their activities and avoid collisions.

Salvacion also highlighted the Universal Structural Health Evaluation and Recording System, or Usher, another big-ticket project with DoST through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development, with the Department of Public Works and Highways.

As the Philippines' first homegrown structural health monitoring system, Usher offers solutions for disaster risk reduction and management, particularly earthquake monitoring.

Reynoso said SEARCA and Mapua University need to start collaborating through promising projects, which Calderon said were concluded after publication.

Impressed with the university studies that ended with publication, Reynoso said they now need to proceed to the incubation stage.

Gregorio said the center has initiatives that Mapua University could join, which include a partnership with Kansas State University on prototyping an open-source tractor.

Cuaresma also proposed expanding Wehlo by incorporating weather index-based insurance.