Ph seized special recognition from prestigious Rockefeller-funded Food System Vision Prize

October 5, 2020

The Philippines has seized a “special recognition” from the prestigious Rockefeller-funded Food System Vision Prize as it envisioned a reduction of  Philippines’ P742 billion yearly food imports by 2050.

    The Philippines’team led by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) sprung up out of 1,300 entries globally.

   The country’s entry is an extensive collaborative work between 14 institutions including those from the academe, government, private sector, and professional/civic associations.

   The NAST-led team contends for a digitally-run food system that produces nutrition-rich and breeding-dominated food.  It equally benefits farmers, consumers, and the environment.

   “Food imports mainly commodities (rice, corn, onion, mungbean, garlic) can be reduced. A total of P742 billion used for food imports in 2018 and growing 25% a year will circulate in the local economy. There will be fewer problems with water and food scarcity, traffic, crime, and pollution,” the experts predict.

Food from aquatic environment and hybrid facilities

   The visioning competition was put up by New York-headquartered Rockefeller Foundation and OpenIDEO and SecondMuse.  Its goal is to help economies develop a vision for sustainable and nourishing diet for their people.  It has established a $2 million fund for the winnings.

  Rockefeller Foundation is also a major funder of CGIAR (Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers).  Los Banos-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is one of its centers. 

   In its entry “Feeding Metro Manila in 2050,” the home team foresees that Filipinos will have adapted to a more diversified diet by 2050.  This weans them from calorie-rich rice-based diet that is linked with several chronic diseases.  They will be more accustomed then to eating the richer staples they were used to in the old tradition—banana, sweet potato, and other root crops and tubers.

Food choice is the key to repairing the food system. Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr.

   Food will then be sourced from more affluent farmers who directly deliver to consumers more nutritious food via digital-based distribution system.

   The future food system will transform waste into economically valuable resources such as fertilizers or renewable energy.

   “The traditional sewage treatment plant will be transformed to a ‘factory’ where domestic waste will be processed to produce recycled water, energy and fertilizers. Consumers will earn from the daily waste they generate,” said Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco of NAST  in the Food System Vision Prize (FSVP) entry.  

   Food will be produced with less water.  Land will be regenerated into watersheds, forests, and habitat for a richer biodiversity.


   These are among NAST’s top visions for 2050:

  • Filipinos will extensively use apps such as the Genopalate.  This suggests an individual’s diet based on his genetic information.  Apps with sensors will suggest diets based on data on one’s gut microbiome.  Internet will play more role in food delivery, enhancing the usual food access systems.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe) technology will be  put forth.  This enhances development and integration of biological, physical, and digital technologies.
Typical Filipino diet versus Planetary Heatlh Diet

   The practice of  FIRe technologies cuts losses and wastage; innovate business models, allowing disruption of prevailing markets; and  enables cost efficiency in the use of resources.

   One application of integration of FIRe technologies is in smart urban farming such as aquaponics which is climate controlled, soil-free, and allows for multi-trophic biological system.  It produces different species in various, linked food chain. For one, aquaponics may produce lettuce at the top and fish underneath the water.

“Smart sensors can be used to monitor the use and recycling of water, as well as the use of LED grow lights that produce the necessary light spectrum to stimulate plant growth within indoor facilities. “

Food will be direct from farmers to consumers
  • Food manufacturing 4.0 is foreseen to produce more environment-friendly, nutritious food with new techniques such as DNA-editing technology.
  • Digital technologies such as block chain may enable enhanced safety, traceability, and transparency in the food chain.

“Such digital platform integrates information from the Plant Health Diet (PHD, genomic data (of individuals), environmental impact, price, local and seasonal availability,(and even farmers’ income)..    

New sensor technology that tracks the changes in gut microbiome in response to food, can also be used to further customize food recommendations.”

Online food ordering PHD App Plus to become mainstream in 2050
  • There will be Reverse Logistics.  It enables transportation of products from retail stores to factories in order to allow for “reuse of packaging materials and resale or proper disposal of unsold products.”
  •    With dehydration technology, Ilocanos may again enjoy the full original flavor of their favorite ‘saluyot’.  Breeding technologies may enable the masses to get a taste of the nutrient-filled red rice, instead of just the white refined rice stripped of vitamins and minerals. By raising yield to say 10 tons per hectare, rather than just 1.5 tons per hectare as in the current yield, breeding may make red rice significantly cheaper.

   “Technology expands our food choices. By diversifying farming, we create an economic justification for research institutions to invest resources on neglected species. When the disappearing and lost species find their way back into the dining table, farms and research institutions, we will have a good chance of regenerating whatever is left of the culture that has been lost by their disappearance.”

Planetary Health Diet

   The scientists find that the need really is for Filipinos to shift from rice-based diet to the emerging Planetary Health Diet (PHD).  A diet with more fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, legumes, mushrooms, and lentils,  PHD equally benefits the human health, farmers, and the environment.

   It will earn a higher income and marketing margin for farmers.  Crop diversification enables them to produce varied and seasonally accepted crops at prices that give better rate of return.

   “Fish and other aquaculture products will be produced by sustainable aquaculture (dominantly mariculture and sea ranching) farms. ‘Hybrid’ production systems such as aquaponics and floating gardens utilizing Laguna de Bay will supplement traditional systems.

   More vegetables will be produced by households or “urban farmers.”

NAST vision of a food system by 2050

   “Unconventional items such as insects and microalgae will be produced too. Urban farms will supply low-cost mass-produced food to the masses in small climate controlled spaces, managed with the help of artificial intelligence. “

   Jobs will be created from the production of biodegradable packaging materials. These will come from ‘palms, bamboo, abaca, and other local fibers.’ This will contribute to lower carbon footprint.  It Will enhance Metro Manila’s increased adaptability to climate change—reducing waste, flooding, and related disasters.

   The country’s entry is found in (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)


Other Visions

  • Small farmers and fishers will be tending more artisanal and diversified farms. That replaces their present production of mere commodities (rice, corn) whose supply, demand, and price are dictated by world market.
  • There will be less pressure for farmers in rural areas to move to the cities as they will enjoy better livelihood.  The rural economy beams with opportunities.
  •    To fight against climate change which is projected to raise temperature by 2 degrees Celcius, some technologies that may be adapted include the following:
  • Cultivation of stress tolerant crops such as such as submergence tolerant rice and drought-resistant sweet potato. Products with longer shelf life and enhanced functions should be developed. Among these are camote and (cassava flours) that are more adaptable to climate change than rice.
  • Use of technologies for accurate weather forecasts, soil and hazard data,  water harvesting technologies (small water impounding structures), alternate wetting and drying practice for rice, drip irrigation; integrated pest management, and agroforestry and permaculture systems,
  •    Diversification, for rice farming, may include integration of mushroom production, milk from water buffalo, and vermiculture.
  • Production of conventional foods such as green vegetables and salad crops, and high tech unconventional foods such as single cell proteins, clean meat, and insects among others. Peri-urban artisan farms will supply special needs such as organic, halal, kosher, pesticide free, animal-welfare compliant, farmer-friendly food.

The team

   Government collaborators in the Philippines’ entry include the Institute of Plant Breeding and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

   From the academe, the participants are De La Salle Araneta University, De La Salle University-Manila, Ateneo de Manila University, and University of the Philippines (SPICE project),

   The private sector is  represented by East West Seeds, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc (PCAFI), and Management Association of the Philippines- Agribusiness and Countryside Development Foundation.

   Research associations and other civic groups include Coalition for Agricultural Modernization of the Philippines, National Research Council of the Philippines, Urban Agriculture PH, Pambansang Kilusan ng Mga Samahang Magsasaka, and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development.


   To make the vision possible, policies must be established on top of what have already been put in place (Balik Probinsya, Rice Tariffication Law, Agri-tourism, seed industry development).     

   These policies encompass many disciplines such as education, nutrition and feeding programs on the PHD;  preventive medicine; and on research and development for food technologies, integrated farming, among others; and calamity preparedness and resilience.

   These laws may need to be put forth and implemented—Republic Act (RA) No. 10,000—Providing Agricultural and Agrarian Reform Credit; RA 9513 —  development of renewable energy resources;  RA 9275 –improvement of sewage systems; RA 10,816—farm touirism development; Executive Order 114—Balik Probinsya Law;

   Other policies that must be implemented involve biotechnology and urban agriculture, creation of Department of Fisheries and Oceans; bioprospecting laws, rehabilitation of Food Terminal Inc., and digital infrastructure.

Tradition and culture

   NAST believes that its vision richly enhances sustainability of Filipinos’ tradition and culture. Its natural topography, with its archipelagic nature, gives way to highly diversified culture –food, rituals, and traditions. 

   While commercialization and urbanization brought about in the past a kind of monoculture in food (90% of land is planted mainly to rice, corn, and coconut), modern technology is reviving the food tradition based on regional preference. 

Urbanized Metro Manila

   Metro Manila is now entangled in a host of problems, mainly poverty as 5.2 million of its 12.8 million population is live below poverty threshold. Their living condition is not acceptable.

   It renders the poor deprived of sufficient and nutritious food. An estimated one-third of children under 5 are stunted.  One-third of adults aged  20 or older are overweight or obese.

   Filipino farmers are considered poorest of the poor. This leads the younger generation to stay away from agriculture. That makes average farmer age at 58 years old.

   With a more monoculture type of farming, 88% of “diverted water” are devoted just for rice. Households every now and then suffer from water shortage.

   Other burdensome problems are food production systems that cause significant volume of waste and pollution (fertilizers, pesticides, poultry and livestock growth chemicals) on land and rivers like Manila and Laguna bays; climate change that cause disasters and food production damages.


   There may be tradeoffs that the country may choose in order to prefer the better over the good.  

   If farmers have to be favored, farm diversification may generate higher income for farmers, rather than if they just focus on producing one crop.  However, consumers may need to adjust their tastes to a new culture (consuming Filipinos’ old staple- banana, instead of the white refined rice).

   Fishermen will be prohibited to fish in fish sanctuaries just in order for fish catching in the wild to be sustainable.

FSVP Finalists

These are the Top 10 Finalists for the FSVP:

7Gen Food System:  Led by the Sicangu Lakota people, this Vision for the Rosebud Indian Reservation of South Dakota, USA outlines a regenerative agricultural system that creates economic opportunities for tribal members; increases the accessibility of locally produced, nutrient-dense foods; and re-establishes the Lakota as primary stewards of the lands [Lead Organization: Sicangu Community Development Corporation].

Arakunomics: Focusing on the regions of Araku, Wardha, and New Delhi, India, this Vision empowers tribal communities and seeks to ensure environmental sustainability, fair profits for farmers, and food and nutrition security for all [Lead Organization: Naandi Foundation].

Eat Right: This Vision from New Delhi, India looks to create a national movement towards healthier diets through a systems-based approach of reducing food waste; improving hygiene and sanitation across the value chain; and increasing access to and affordability of healthy foods [Lead Organization: Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India].

Food Innovation Nervecenter: This Vision from Lagos, Nigeria identifies six key food challenges for the region, from food waste to aging farmers, and outlines a multi-faceted plan to build a more regenerative and nourishing food system [Lead Organization: Darkpore Media Africa LTD].

From Mama’s Kitchen to Metropolitan Beijing: This Vision from Beijing, China imagines a plant-based dietary transformation for the world’s most populous nation, contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and pollution [Lead Organizations: Good Food Fund of the China Biodiversity Conservation & Green Development Foundation].

Kwayeskastasowin Wahkohtowin: Led by local First Nations communities, this Vision from Manitoba, Canada aims to create a just and sustainable agrifood system while addressing the process of decolonization and reconciliation between Indigenous and settler populations [Lead Organization: Natural Systems Agriculture Laboratory, University of Manitoba]. 

Lima 2035: This Vision for Lima, Peru imagines a regenerative and nourishing food oasis by 2035, with the aim of securing climate-resilient running water for all in Lima’s fragile desert environment [Lead Organization: International Potato Center].

Re-rooting the Dutch Food System – From More to Better: This Vision from the Netherlands outlines a transformed, circular Dutch food system that safeguards natural resources, promotes a healthier and more sustainable plant-based diet, and recycles unavoidable losses and wastes [Lead Organization: Wageningen University & Research].

Restoring Nairobi to “A Place of Cool Waters”: This Vision for Nairobi, Kenya aims to develop a more equitable, just and sustainable urban space, where access to nutritious food is a reality for everyone [Lead Organization: African Population and Health Research Center].

Stone Barns Center: This Vision from the Hudson Valley in New York, U.S. seeks to bring about a new food culture—rooted in the ecological, nutritional and communal potential of organic agriculture—through groundbreaking culinary experimentation [Lead Organization: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture].

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