Smart Tech to Help PHL Achieve Sustainable Agri Goals

The Philippines is hoping to modernize and strengthen its agriculture sector, with both the state and private companies promoting the adoption of advanced technology and smart farming methods to increase harvests and minimize losses.

In early April officials broke ground on the country’s first state-funded smart farm, part of the P128-million ($2.5-million) Smart Plant Production in Controlled Environments (SPICE) program, designed to develop and promote urban farming and high-tech plant conservation.

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Golden Rice Bags International Food Safety Nod

The controversial Golden Rice, which is still being pushed in the Philippines, got a positive evaluation from the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), concurring the variety’s safety and nutrition.

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Government to roll out rice-research software

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said it is developing an analysis tool that would allow researchers to fast-track the breeding of new stress-tolerant rice varieties to help farmers cope with climate change.

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Advocates seek a law on modern biotech

WHAT’S 5.41 years, or 65 months, or 1,950 days? That’s how long it takes to get all the requirements before genetically modified (GM) products can be released in the market.

Perhaps not many know it, but that’s what is happening in the Philippines.

And it means lost opportunities for the country in terms of exports, lost opportunities for farmers and lost opportunities as well for scientists and researchers.

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Two Filipino inventions receive gold recognition in Geneva tilt

Two Filipino inventions made quite a mark in the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva (Geneva Inventions) in Switzerland held from April 11 to 15: the Portable Smart Surface System and Biotek-M Dengue Aqua Kit.

Each won a gold medal in the highly-prestigious competition, while Smart Surface also came home with a “Jury Distinction” to boot.

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Digital ‘farm-to-market road’ breaks ground

In the near future, the country’s farmers could start selling their produce in a digital market, thanks to students who believe they have finally found a way to make food producers richer.

An online database platform called “e-magsasaka” hopes to reduce the involvement of middlemen in marketing crops and eventually increase farmer profits by 20 percent and keep prices at an affordable level, said a group of graduates who took home the P250,000-prize in the first Innovation Olympics organized by East-West Seeds.

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PH needs 19,000 more scientists, researchers

William Dar, the former Agriculture secretary, said that with scientific interventions, the country’s farming sector would be able to increase yields and farmers could venture into value-addition, or the production of finished or semi-processed products for export.

Citing figures from the UN Trade Map, Dar, in one of his columns in The Manila Times, said the country was still a net food importer as it exported $5.7 billion worth of farm and food products in 2016 and imported $11 billion, for a deficit of $5.9 billion.

In comparison, Thailand exported $42.2 billion in farm products in 2016 and bought from abroad $15.7 billion for a surplus of $26.5 billion; Indonesia, $36.5 billion in farm exports and $17.9 billion in agricultural imports for a surplus of $18.6 billion; Malaysia, $26.7 billion in farm exports and $17.4 billion in agricultural imports for a surplus of $9.3 billion; and Vietnam, $23.1 billion in farm exports and $14.5 billion in agricultural imports for a surplus of $8.6 billion.

Dar blamed the inadequate number of Filipino scientists for the country’s being a laggard in farm exports compared with its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Citing Unesco recommendations, he said the Philippines had a very low researcher/scientist ratio per million of people. The agency recommends 380 scientists/researchers per million population, but the Philippines only has 189 researchers/scientists per million.

This means the country needs at least 19,000 more scientists.

Dar said countries that are industrialized exceed the Unesco recommendation: Israel has 8,300 researchers/scientists per million population, South Korea has 6,900, Singapore 6,700, Malaysia 2,100, and Thailand, 974.

Chief astronomer Dario de la Cruz of the state-run Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) told The Manila Times that some government-funded scientific facilities needed a “revamp” or relocation to perform more efficiently.

Ang observatory pa nga lang natin, hindi na ideal site ito for astronomy dahil sobrang luma na [Even our observatory is not an ideal site for astronomical activities anymore because of its old and worn out facilities],” said de la Cruz.

Pagasa’s astronomical observatory, which recently invited more than a thousand sky watchers for the rare “super blue blood moon event” at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, has been standing on the site in Quezon City since 1954.

-Written by Mary Gleefer Jalea in The Manila Times with report from Conrad Cariño. See original link here.

DOST, UP bat for first ‘smart farm’ in PHL

The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) is putting its stakes to fund the country’s first “smart farm.”

The smart farm is a facility for the Smart Plant Production in Controlled Environments (Spice), a P128-million program that will promote urban farming and high-tech plant conservation.

It will be housed at the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute’s Nursery of Indigenous and Endemic Plants in Quezon City. Teaming up to develop the Spice are the UP Diliman Institute of Biology and Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, and UP Los Baños Institute of Biology.

This program aims to lead the research and development (R&D) for the design of a stand-alone urban-farm system and establish protocols for micropropagation, cryopreservation and nursery management of rare, endangered and economically valuable native plant species.

“The core of this project is not only the development of new technology, but also, on a macro perspective, to ensure that we can protect our country’s rich biodiversity,” Science Undersecretary for R&D Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara said.

Modern-farming methods like vertical farming, micropropagation, cryopreservation and hydroponics will be practiced to grow native plants in an environment wherein the climate, the lighting and the irrigation system can be monitored, controlled and changed real-time through the use of electronics, sensors and automation.

“My idea of internationalization is exporting our own ideas, that foreign scientists will come to the country to study trees that are endemic here. Spice is an innovation project,” UP Executive Vice President Dr. Teodoro Herbosa remarked. National Scientist and UP Professor Emeritus Dr. Edgardo Gomez shared his experiences in biology and commended the team for initiating the project.

“This [Spice] will be a world-class institute,” Gomez said.

Besides the technical features of the project, the facility is envisioned to include a “living laboratory,” where visitors can see the various technologies employed and store where they can buy fresh vegetables grown on site.

-Written by S&T Media Service. See original article link here.

UP student org named Tech Visionary at Tayo Awards

FOR promoting and revitalizing the appreciation of agriculture among the youth, the University of the Philippines Genetic Researchers and Agricultural Innovators Society (UP GRAINS) from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) was recognized by Lenovo Philippines as an Outstanding Tech Visionary in this year’s Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (Tayo) 15 Awards, held recently at the AG New World Manila Bay Hotel. Read more

Assessing Potential Impact of Bt Eggplants on Non-Target Arthropods in the Philippines

Researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, and Cornell University report on studies conducted in the Philippines over three cropping seasons with Bt eggplants expressing Cry1Ac for control of the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), Leucinodes orbonalis, to examine potential effects on field abundance, community composition, structure and biodiversity of non target organisms, particularly non-target arthropod (NTA) communities. Read more

Balik Scientist bill gets bicam panel’s nod

The Balik Scientist Program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will finally be institutionalized and strengthened in order to encourage the Filipino scientists who have been working in foreign countries to return to the Philippines so they could participate and contribute to the development of the country. Read more

PhilRice develops rice varieties that can withstand water-related stress

Farmers may no longer have to worry about low yield on the weight of water-related stress, thanks to some stress resistant rice varieties that were just recently developed by Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Read more