New agri innovation project expected to benefit 30,000 Thai farmers

BANGKOK: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Regional Agriculture Innovation Network (RAIN) project recently launched by Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development (Winrock) is expected to benefit 30,000 Thai farmers.

"RAIN is a five-year project funded by the USDA and implemented by Winrock International to validate and scale climate-smart innovations (CSIs) across several agricultural value chains," commented Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Thailand Gwendolyn Cardno on June 21.

She added that RAIN aims to improve productivity and markets through extension services and financial support.

To cooperate on RAIN, Winrock signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and four Thai entities during the launch event on June 21.

"We are pleased to be forging a mutually strategic partnership with Winrock to work on promoting agricultural innovation and climate-smart technologies, particularly through the USDA RAIN project," SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio said during the launch.

Recognised worldwide for its efforts in social, agricultural, and environmental development, Winrock is committed to expanding economic opportunities and conserving global resources while improving the lives of the underprivileged.

RAIN aspires to augment the competitiveness of Thai agriculture, extending the prospects for agricultural trade.

"By 2027, RAIN will have enabled 30,000 farmers to adopt 30 climate-smart innovations, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 76,000 tons. The project will predominantly focus on economic crops, including rice, cassava, longan, durian, coconut, and mangosteen," Dr. William Sparks, Winrock Chief of Party forecasts.

"The MOU between SEARCA and Winrock will facilitate our collaboration in areas related to accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN) and scaling of climate-smart technologies that increase productivity, reduce environmental impact, and expand trade," Gregorio affirmed.

The collaborative efforts will include innovations scanning, guidance provision, co-hosting learning sessions, and establishing best practices for innovations.

Together, Winrock and SEARCA will conduct coordinated scanning for innovations, provide guidance to other universities and actors on scanning, and co-host learning sessions. They will also define best practices for bundling finance, extension, equality, and data into innovations.

Gregorio said SEARCA and Winrock also agreed to develop a network of youth outreach programs and makerspaces to excite youth about innovations and to link youth to specific entrepreneurial opportunities.

Additionally, both parties will coordinate a grants program and encourage private sector participation in further grants contributions, selection processes, and technical support.

"We will also build on the Southeast Asia Platform to Attain Agri 4.0 Collaboration and Engagement (SPACE) concept initiated by the Center to establish a knowledge management hub for showcasing innovations, evidence, and partners," Gregorio added.

"As the US government and our partners worldwide invest in new programs and innovations, we recognize that sharing information on the successes, challenges, and approaches can have broad global benefits," Cardno said.

"It's not enough for us to scale these innovations, but how we can share our practices and results and our process with others in the region," Sparks stressed.

A shared methodology for assessing impact, sharing results, and promoting data sharing will be defined by Winrock and SEARCA. They will also define a training model to aid universities in other countries to adopt and scale technologies.

This aligns with the RAIN initiative "to establish an international climate hub that facilitates the adoption of CSIs to increase productivity, reduce environmental impact, and expand trade in Thailand and Southeast Asia."

SEARCA and Winrock also agreed to explore potential carbon market solutions for encouraging technology adoption at the farm level.

The other Thai entities that will cooperate on RAIN are Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA); National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA); Harmless Harvest Co., Ltd.; and CPS Weather Co., Ltd.