Intellectual property assets to boost investment in agriculture, uplift poor farmers in a new SEARCA program

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio advocates equal distribution of wealth in agriculture especially among marginalized farmers

April 17, 2020

Philippines-based  Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is boosting  ownership of intellectual property (IP) assets to help prop up agriculture investments while ensuring broader based wealth distribution among “poorest of the poor” farmers.

   As IP assets encourage ownership of wealth, acquisition of IP assets by more farm technocrats, enterprises, and farmers’ cooperatives is part of the agenda in SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan (11FYP).

   The Philippines still has very limited capacity to obtain IP assets—commercialization licenses, patents, copyright, trade secrets, trademarks—that hold tremendous value in creating wealth among new entrepreneurs.

   “SEARCA will formulate and establish its intellectual-property (IP) policy to ensure that product and technologies reach the intended and ultimate beneficiaries without much financial burden,” according to SEARCA’s 11thFYP.

   “Guided by this IP policy, SEARCA will facilitate licensing and transfer of technologies developed by universities to industry players to create products for the marketplace.”

   SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio is advocating for adoption of Agriculture 4.0—a concept of the future of agriculture focusing on the use of big data, Internet of Things (IoT), precision farming, and disruptive agriculture  for increased business efficiency, according to Proagrica.

   “SEARCA will be a gateway to the future of agricultural development as it builds open innovation and open science spaces. These spaces will operate a platform—online and otherwise, systems or modular—of agri-innovations, sustained best practices, emerging agribusiness models, and smart disruptive solutions.”

   While tapping digital and technology for agriculture advancement, SEARCA is concerned about how benefits will be distributed equally, particularly among poor farmers as poverty remains prevalent among rural farmers in the Philippines, among other Southeast Asian (SEA) countries.

   One strategy of SEARCA in its new five-year plan to be implemented up to 2025 is to tap not only private enterprises but also mass-based, grassroots-based farmers’ cooperatives.

   “Cooperatives can be the best participatory organizational form that could effectively deliver the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SEARCA will contribute to providing access to new sources of capital that will allow them to grow and flourish.”

   “SEARCA will facilitate access of cooperatives to a new breed of talent that will lead and manage agribusiness enterprises as well as appropriate, safe breakthrough technologies.”

   Several projects of SEARCA have shown that while investments in agriculture has increased in the past decades among SEA countries, wealth distribution particularly among poor farmers has been limited.

  Such equitable distribution of benefits among the poorest farmers is viable via legal tools through policies that SEARCA also encourages to be adopted by government.

   “(Cooperatives will be a) leader in economic, social, and environmental sustainability. (Cooperatives are) the model of participation more preferred by people and the fastest growing form of enterprise.”

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, pushes for adoption of Agriculture 4.0 toward digital and innovative farm practices

   For business and industry, formation of more public-private partnerships, new business models, and more innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems for new start-ups should be encouraged. 

   “Business and industry, together with SEARCA, will endeavor to invest mission-oriented efforts to enact the governance mindset change needed to balance the interests of business and society, considering social and institutional innovation to improve transparency, participation, and sustainability.”

   These are the other parts of the Agriculture 4.0 agenda in SEARCA’s five-year plan:

 1.      Open Innovation and Agri-Incubation.  Partnering with the players and actors of the innovation community such as incubator houses, venture capital funders, universities, research institutions, as well as startups, small and medium enterprises, and corporations could support the goal of SEARCA.

   “While most startups are focused on developing digital technologies, incubators and start-ups focused on Agriculture Research and Development technologies do not appear as popular in Southeast Asia.”

2.      Knowledge and Technology Transfer SEARCA (through IP Policy).

3.      Project Development, Monitoring and Evaluation.  SEARCA will implement Research Grants with Industry Partners – Grants for Research Towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS) through at least four distinct mechanisms: 1.) Graduate Research with an Industry Partner, 2.) Call for Research Proposals Based on Industry Need, 3.) Engaging the Industry and the Youth in Promoting Agriculture and Rural Development, and 4.) Academe-Industry-Government Interconnectivity.

   SEARCA crafted its five-year plan with these products and services in mind to be delivered by its programs:

 1. Development of next generation agriculture leaders and professionals;

2. Policy analysis and recommendations for the international, national, and local levels;

3. Economic, social, and technological knowledge creation in the agricultural ecosystem;

4. Program design, implementation, and support;

5. Just-in-time decision making support for decision makers; and

6. Incubation and innovation of new products, services, and business models.

   SEARCA is hosted by the Philippine Government under the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), an intergovernment organization, with funding support from international and local partners for joint programs and projects. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

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