SEARCA sees digital tech boosting plant science

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) is advocating the use of digital technology to boost plant science to improve the lives and earnings of farmers.

More than 350 scientists, researchers and educators recently convened to discuss ways digital technology can be harnessed to boost plant science during the 25th Federation of Crop Science Societies of the Philippines and the 1st Federation of Plant Science Associations of the Philippines (FPSAP) Scientific Conference held at Apo View Hotel in Davao City from September 17 to 21.

During the opening of the conference that had the theme “Converging Sustainability and Precision to Create Digital Plant Science Innovations,” Searca Director Glenn Gregorio explained the importance of using technology to achieve “Agriculture 4.0,” but pointed out that there was still resistance in adopting modern technologies because of perceived risks.

“The reality of digitalizing agriculture is won or lost at the farmer level, where applicability and sustainability have to be tested,” he said.

“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,” Gregorio added.
Ryan Rodrigo Tayobong, FPSAP president, also underscored the need for advanced technology for plant research.

“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,” he said.

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.

Gregorio also said Searca was working toward elevating the quality of life of farmers by improving their access to new, sustainable and resilient production technologies and systems, and helping them integrate with modern post-harvest and logistics systems.

“Plant science and agriculture must be able to cope with how fast new knowledge is generated and technologies change,” he said.

Gregorio added that Searca, in the next five years, would focus its efforts to facilitate interconnectedness among the academe, industry and government to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on quality education; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; and partnerships for the SDGs, among others.

“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,” Gregorio said, challenging the participants to begin innovating approaches in transforming the agricultural sector.

FPSAP organized the conference in collaboration with the University of Southeastern Philippines and Southern Mindanao Agriculture Aquatic and Resource Research Development Consortium.

It was co-sponsored by Searca, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, Corteva Agriscience, Monsanto Philippines-Bayer Crop Science, and CropLife Philippines.