Farm sector should tap digital agriculture, disruptive technologies to catch up with food security, raise agri contribution to jobs, GDP

Farm sector should tap digital agriculture, disruptive technologies to catch up with food security, raise agri contribution to jobs, GDP
December 29, 2018

The farm sector should transform into adapting digital agriculture and disruptive breeding technologies in order to catch up with predicted food scarcity and raise agriculture contribution to jobs and GDP.
The farm sector in Southeast Asia is the least digitized sector of the economy with only $4.6 billion invested for agriculture technology in 2016 according to AgFunder.
On the contrary, the needed investment for agriculture technology in the region totals to $265 billion per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Southeast Asian agriculture expert Dr. Paul S. Teng said in a consultation organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) that technology adoption will be a key determinant of farm growth.
Teng stressed digital agriculture, which primarily refers to Internet of Things (IoT) enables knowledge intensity in agriculture. For one, agriculture production depends highly on weather stability, and IoT provides higher accuracy of information on data-enabled agriculture through more accurate weather forecasting.
IoT—mobile computing data sensors, satellite and imagery— contributes to information on irrigation, soil condition, and topography which are critical in farming.
Technologies in financing (fintech) will also be pivotal in farm development—providing time-sensitive small loans to farmers.
“Given that time-sensitive small loans are the biggest challenge that farmers face, it’ll be interesting to see solutions such as record-keeping platforms that enable small and marginal farmers to keep records, track their farming activity and build a credit profile,” said Teng
Smart phones are instrumental in collaboration between fintech startups and traditional farm financing entities.
“This would help farmers in effectively building a knowledge base that will help them get access to favourable loan terms that correlate with their farming activities,” said Teng in the SEARCA-organized “Reshaping Agriculture & Development in SE Asia.”
New biology will also help raise food production
“Gene-Editing biotechnologies (CRISPR, TALENs, Zinc Finger Nucleases) provide capability – the ability to edit native crop genes coding for important traits and generating non-transgenic plants. Genome-edited (important) crops include, soybean, maize, wheat, rice, potato, tomato, and peanuts.”
These are among the technologies that should be invested in, according to AgFunder 2018:
• Farm Management Software, Sensing & IoT – Ag data capturing devices, decision support software, big data analytics
• Robotics, Mechanisation & Equipment – On-farm machinery, automation, drone manufacturers, grow equipment
• Novel Farming Systems – Indoor farms, aquaculture, insect, algae & microbe production (excludes consumer home grow kits)
• Novel seeds – Biotech seeds
• Bioenergy & Biomaterials – On-farm agriculture waste processing, biomaterials production, anaerobic digesters (excludes supply chain companies)
• Agribusiness Marketplaces – Commodities trading platforms, online input procurement, equipment leasing used by farmers
• Farm-to-Consumer eGrocery – Online platforms for farmers to sell and deliver their produce direct to consumers
• Miscellaneous – Land management tech, financial services for farmers
But on top of investing in technology, Teng said the agriculture sector should be directed to this transformation process toward the following:
• Managing Climate Uncertainties and Water Scarcity
• Agro-industrial Value Chains and Integration of Smallholders
• Farm Tourism and Family Farming
As global population is projected to reach to 10 billion by 2050, worldwide farm productivity should be raised by 60% in 2050 in order to close the food gap.
In the Philippines, agriculture’s contribution to GDP (gross domestic product) as of 2016 dropped to 9.7% from 19.14 in 1990.
Nevertheless, employment in agriculture was still significant at 27% of population depend on it for of 2016.
Importation in developing countries like the Philippines is still intensive to which the economy depends to sustain people’s nutrition.
“ASEAN countries produce much (top 3 for a range of agrifood products) but still depend on imports from outside region to meet needs for animal feed (soybean) and wheat . There’s still high prevalence of hunger and under-nutrition.” End (Growth Publishing for SEARCA).

Ph leads with Rockefeller University in pioneering clinical research on VCO anti-inflammatory property

Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell

Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell

December 23, 2018

By Melody Mendoza Aguiba

The Philippines is leading a pioneering evidence-based research on the anti-inflammatory property of virgin coconut oil (VCO) together with Rockefeller University.

The study is envisioned to be a multinational program. It is expanding earlier research proving VCO’s potential to be a medically-proven treatment for inflammation.

“We’ll get help from India. They have dermatologists. They are very good in research. Thailand, Singapore maybe, Indonesia definitely I can get their residents and anywhere-else so that we have validity in numbers so we can now have multinational studies,” said Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell, entrepreneurial founder of VMV Hypoallergenics.

Research such as this, much as other clinical researches pursued by VMV Skin Research Centre Clinics (VMV-SKRC), will make VCO more recognized as a medical treatment, according to Rowell.

“The best evidence studies that we doctors do is what we call randomized clinical trials,” said Rowell in “Interactive Lecture on Lauric Monoglyceride in Dermatology Application.”

The Philippines has introduced VCO to the world in 2000-2001 and remains to be world’s number one VCO exporter. But scientific researches, sought for by opinion-maker doctors and consumers alike, should establish this leadership.

The other types of evidence-based research that medical experts recognize as the best evidence-type are called “double blinded randomized clinical trials” and “meta analysis,” a review/analysis of many researches.

VMV-SKRC is completing a research on VCO’s anti-inflammatory trait that just proved VCO is far more anti-inflammatory compared to corn oil.

In September 2016, VMV-SKRC made public its “Anti Inflammatory Diet Study” on VCO and corn oil. It was funded by the government-run Philippine Institute of Traditional Health Care (PITAHC).  It was carried out in collaboration with Rockefeller University-New York.

It chose corn oil to represent long chain fatty acids and coconut oil for medium chain fatty acids. It aimed to study the oils when taken internally by patients as part of food.

One set of patients took coconut oil as part of diet, and the other set took corn oil. It is a double-blinded type of clinical trial where neither the researchers nor the patients know what type of food they are taking.

“We got regional biopsies at the beginning of the study and non regional for control.
I was stunned –when we finally opened it. The amazing thing about coconut oil is that it is so much more anti inflammatory than corn oil,” Rowell said.

Rockefeller University is also carrying out genetic studies called RNA sequencing of these two sets of patients.

Proving the anti-inflammatory quality of VCO may have numerous applications in medical treatment.

“Inflammation is the key of mechanism of diseases –whether in the skin or psoriasis, or dermatology or even acne. All of that is given by inflammation. That is the same with inflammation inside the body -–diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and others,” Rowell said.

VMV has already been using coconut oil as treatment for psoriasis and other skin diseases as a far more effective cure than other treatments. For skin asthma or “hika ng balat,” coconut oil proved to be an excellent cure.

“Coconut oil practically eradicated it. Olive oil is able to do it up to 50%.”

What is good about coconut oil is it has clinical or biological mechanism of action in treatment rather than enzymatic which is how antibiotics work in the body—going against enzymes’ action.

“Coconut oil is different. It’s medium chain, and as such carbon chain penetrates through the wall in the cell membrane.”

Besides, it has very light molecular weight of 256, compared to olive oil, 857 and sunflower oil, 876. The big fatty acids cannot penetrate into the skin.

VMV-SKRC’s clinical researches on such skin treatment substantiated its claims. Rowell herself has published more than 150 articles in dermatology scientific journals.

However, she stressed the Philippines has to do more clinical trials on VCO.

“The world is watching, and people are reading researches that are evidence-based, she said.

“In the Philippines, if we are to produce more understanding by the world that coconut oil is really quite safe internally and with food, we need to convince the doctors, the academics because they are after all the opinion leaders. They are the ones who told the rest of the world that coconut oil back in the ’50s, ’60s and onwards was not good for the diet.”  Melody Mendoza Aguiba

’Value chain’study of calamansi carried out to beef up 170 MT export to UAE, Hongkong

_’Value chain’study of calamansi carried out to beef up 170 MT export to UAE, Hongkong
December 11, 2018

A “value chain study of calamansi is being carried out to beef up output and some 170 metric tons (MT) of export of fresh and processed fruits per year shipped to Hongkong, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has supported Bureau of Agricultural Research’s (BAR) piloting of the project in Oriental Mindoro.
“There are gaps and constraints in the calamansi industry that limit its potential to increase income and generate the much-needed employment for the calamansi-growing communities in Oriental Mindoro,” according to SEARCA.
“The project will strengthen capacities of calamansi stakeholders on the improved production and postharvest handling practices, calamansi processing, and entrepreneurship.”
Value chain concept involves creating “value” from activities that have been identified to make a business more profitable. For instance, activities that increase farm sales are hiring sales agents to market a product or training farm experts on pest management practices in order to increase harvest.
Value chain studies enhance a business’s competitiveness and was introduced by economist Michael Porter in his “Competitive Advantage (1985)”.
The country’s calamansi export ranged from 20 to 35 MT in 2008 with an average yearly export of 29.5 MT in fresh fruits.
A value chain advantage may be found in processing more fresh fruits. A total of 144 MT of calamansi juice and concentrate was exported to Hongkong, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in 2013. An important consideration in this project is on expanding employment and farmer’s income from the business.
Constraints in calamansi sector’s growth include lack of good-quality calamansi seedlings; high incidence of pests and diseases; declining volume of production; huge postharvest losses; limited access to market; inconsistent quality of processed calamansi products; low prices during peak season; and lack of resources, skills, knowledge, and experience in collective marketing among calamansi farmers.
The two-year project aims to address these technical and market constraints.
It intends to improve calamansi production and fruit quality by using proven technologies and practices in integrated pest management, fertilization, off-season fruiting, and postharvest handling.
It will also support the commercialization of calamansi-based products through value chain analysis of processed products, market study, and product enhancement.
Moreover, it will also promote faculty and student exchange for R&D (research and development) and technology transfer and promotion.
The project will build on the gains of SEARCA’s action research program “Piloting and Upscaling Effective Models of Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (PUEM-ISARD) that helped revitalize the calamansi industry of Oriental Mindoro.
SEARCA has been implementing PUEM-ISARD with Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT) and the local government units of Oriental Mindoro since 2015.
Recently, Tokyo University of Agriculture (Tokyo NODAI) of Japan also began conducting experiments at the project site to validate the effects of off-season production technologies suitable to the growing conditions of calamansi in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro.


Calamansi is indigenous to the Philippines . The largest production is fromVictoria, Oriental Mindoro.
According to the DA-Philippine Rural Development Program, buyers prefer calamansi from Oriental Mindoro because it has a thicker rind, stronger taste, longer shelf-life, and resists weight loss.
Calamansi, or calamondin, is used primarily as juice, puree, and for souring food.
Production has been declining for 6 years from 199,675 MT and 20,956 hectares in 2008 down to 164,050 MT and 20,246 hectares in 2013.
The decline is due to the greening disease or ”huanglubin’ which decreases yield and causes death of trees, reported the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC).
Calamansi is produced primarily from MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblom, Palawan– 6,872 hectares), Central Luzon (Zambales, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan-1,734ha) and Ilocos Region (1,026ha) in Luzon.
In Mindanao, producers are in Davao Region (1,797 hectares), CARAGA (1,412 hectares) and Zamboanga Peninsula (1,077 hectares).
Yield has been dropping form an average of 9.53MT hectares in 2008 to 8.10 MT in 2013, down to an annual growth rate of -3.18.
A sizable 93% of the volume as of 2013 was used domestically for food and the rest for export.
With production decline, prices has been increasing at P23.13 per kilo in 2013 from only P13.28 per kilo in 2008. End (Growth Publishing for SEARCA).

Benguet pine, ipil, 3 other forest tree species put under genetic diversity program to raise survival of planting 1.5B trees, beef up quality wood supply

Benguet pine, ipil, 3 other forest tree species put under genetic diversity program to raise survival of planting 1.5B trees, beef up quality wood supply
PHOTO Saving Philippine Forest Trees Through Genetic Biodversity<img
Dec. 5, 2018

For any questions or interview requests, please contact 09297158669, 09171026734 (Growth Publishing for ERDB)

Five forest tree species—Benguet pine, Bagalunga, Molave, Ipil, and Narra—have been put under “genetic diversity” assessment of the government as part of the goal to plant 1.5 billion trees that sustain long term and help beef up quality wood supply.
The Ecosystems Research & Development Bureau (ERDB) has put this as a priority as a systematic way to ensure foresters will propagate the tree varieties have high survival potential amid rapid changes in climate and the environment.
The “Genetic Improvement of priority Forest Tree Species for Quality Wood Production Project,” (GIFTS-QWP) of ERDB is pursuing further study of the five tree species after successfully assessing the genetic diversity of Rattan Limuran, according to Project Leader Dr. Theresa delos Reyes.
Rattan Limuran is an important industrial species for wood products exported by the country.
For Limuran, Bataan turned out to be the best possible source of planting materials with highest genetic diversity.
ERDB had also initially found that the Ilocos province has the highest potential for tree improvement and breeding for narra based on broad genetic diversity.
“Assessment of genetic variation among and within populations is essential for the success of any tree breeding and selection programs. It holds vast potentials for the preservation of the forest ecosystems in the Philippines” said Dr. Sofio B. Quintana, ERDB Director.

What is the importance of genetic diversity?

With the changing environment and increase in global temperature, some species of forest trees fail to cope up to changes while others (under the same species) succeed in adapting.
By assessing the genetic makeup of forest trees through DNA analysis, differences among similar trees can be distinguished with the aid of molecular tools.
The variation that is observed in the genetic makeup of species is called genetic diversity.
. ”With more genetic variations, it is more likely that some individuals possess alleles (alternative form of genes) that better suit the environment,” according to ERDB authors Karol Josef Lucena, Jordan Abellar and Jorge Cyril Viray.
And because of the success of these individuals, their population will continue for more generations.
Having less genetic diversity leads to uniformity. Such population have individuals less likely to adapt to new environment.

Monoculture (1 crop planted in a large farm area) is beneficial only for growing and harvesting crops short term. In the long run, it will be a problem when a disease or parasites attack the field.
Due to genetic uniformity, every plant is vulnerable.
The same is true for forest trees. Tree domestication tends to decrease genetic variability as limited plants are selected and propagated.
Little genetic variation within a species impedes the process of healthy reproduction as evident by the expression of harmful traits in the offspring resulting from inbreeding (mating of genetically related organisms).
Inbred trees that develop slowly are often deformed. Many die suddenly and inexplicably before reaching maturity. Few inbred trees survive and reproduce in natural forest setting.
With low genetic diversity comes increased susceptibility to disease and increase mortality of the population in environmental disturbances.
In 1890, an epidemic had spread across Panama wiping out hectares of banana production. Being genetically identical, banana plants are susceptible to the fungal disease, providing little to no resistance against the disease.
Such scenario ultimately leads to extinction of the population and of the species.

Genetic variations

In order for plant geneticists to tell apart genetic variations, they use segments of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence of the individuals to mine them out despite the limited availability of whole genome sequences from forest trees species.
These segments of DNA are called DNA-based molecular markers which are widely used in studying genetic diversity, as well as for identification of species.
Jordan Abellar, ERDB-based biologist, said after collecting the plant material (leaf, stem, or root), careful optimization of protocols follows wherein the DNA of the material is isolated.
This process is called DNA extraction. The process involves breaking the cell wall and cell membrane (cell lysis), removing the organelles, and destroying the nuclear membrane. After these processes, the “purest” DNA can be extracted.
After obtaning a desirable amount of DNA with superior purity, molecular biologists then subject this DNA to a temperature sensitive process that produces millions of copies of it in a matter of an hour or two.
This copying process is called DNA amplification or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) discovered by Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis in 1985. It involves a series of heating-cooling-heating the DNA. These temperature changes allow the enzymes and other reagents to copy the target regions (molecular markers) of the DNA.
PCR is an indispensable technique known to be used in medical and clinical laboratory research including forensic science in crime scene investigations. It also holds a potential swing in improving forensic botany for higher productivity and survivability of forest trees species and for the trees to achieve superiority in growth parameters.

ERDB’s studies

To date, Dr. de los Reyes said the diversity of five forest tree species are included in the study Assessment of Genetic Diversity of Priority Forest Tree Species through DNA Analysis of the Genetic Improvement of priority Forest Tree Species for Quality Wood Production (GIFTS-QWP) project.
The species were selected based on the criteria stated in DAO 2010-11 “Revised Regulations Governing Forest Tree Seed and Seedling Production, Collection and Disposition”.
Moreover, transferability of these SSR markers to progenies planted in Progeny Test Plantation of the Progeny Tests Cum Seedling Seed Orchards study is being documented. The genetic diversity of these plantations is also being assessed.
Genetic variation is the basis of evolution and the catalyst for species to adapt to ever changing environment.
“The implementation of efficient measures to conserve the genetic resources of forest tree species in the Philippines can be addressed by having a complete understanding on the patterns of genetic variation within species,” said Quintana.
As the country faces unceasing deforestation and its accompanying loss of genetic resources for its biodiversity, the necessity to study the genetic diversity and molecular characteristics of forest tree resources is very imperative and timely.
ERDB’s pursuit for genetic diversity studies has been supported since the establishment of its Forest Molecular Biology Laboratory.
Its researchers have been harnessing the potential of Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers to assess the levels of genetic variations of indigenous forest tree populations.
Because of the limitations presented by RAPD markers, ERDB utilized a new marker system called Simple Sequence Repeats (SSR), said Delos Reyes.
Using these molecular markers, the assessment of Kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana Schultes f.) was completed. Results revealed that the Pangasinan population was the most genetically diverse,” said delos Reyes. (Growth Publishing for ERDB) End