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Making agriculture smarter

To protect consumers and the environment, it’s time to take a more thoughtful and efficient approach to food production across Asia.

Marco Wopereis: “On the supply side, we need smart technology and approaches for precision agriculture, using advanced sensing technology to increase productivity. Sensors, advanced analytical tools, modeling, big data and machine learning will increase efficiency of input use in food systems and ensure positive economic and environmental outcomes.”

The International Symposium on Smart Agriculture for Environmentally and Consumer Friendly Food Production, a joint collaboration of the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region (FFTC), National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST), the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute of the Council of Agriculture (TARI-COA) and the World Vegetable Center was held at NPUST in Pingtung, Taiwan from 29-31 May 2019.

More than 60 experts from around the Asia-Pacific region shared their perspectives on how to provide a food supply that’s safe for consumers while reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment.

In his opening remarks, WorldVeg Director General Marco Wopereis noted the need for a transformation of our food systems towards healthier diets and more sustainable production systems while creating value and jobs, in particular for young people.

“We need to look at food systems with a fresh look and from a health angle, an environmental angle and an economic angle,” he said. “To achieve transformational change, we need to work on both the demand and supply side for nutritious diets and environmentally sustainable development.”

According to the Asian Development Bank, Asia and the Pacific accounts for 37% of the world’s total emissions from agricultural production.

In most Asian countries, agriculture is the biggest user of water and can reach up to 90% of total water consumption. Food and feed crop demand in the region will nearly double in the coming 50 years. Producing meat, milk, sugar, oils, and vegetables typically requires more water than producing cereals–and a different style of water management.

Wopereis noted that Taiwan is well placed to become a front runner in improving food systems given the strengths of its high-tech industries and knowledge centers, such as NPUST.

WorldVeg Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia Delphine Larrousse shared a view of the “triple burden” of undernutrition, overweight, and malnutrition in Asia, and presented a paper highlighting innovations and policy interventions that target consumer behavior change (demand), the food environment (demand-supply), and food supply chains (supply). Legume Breeder Ram Nair presented highlights of the Center’s four decades of mungbean research and progress with the mungbean minicore collection.

WorldVeg hosted a field trip for 30 participants on 30 May 2019. The visitors were able to see the new Phenospex field phenotyping system in action, tour the WorldVeg Genebank (the world’s largest public collection of vegetable seed) and view the Demonstration Garden, an ever-changing showcase of more than 150 vegetable species, and production technologies including screenhouses, drip irrigation, keyhole gardens and more.

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WorldVeg Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia Delphine Larrousse spoke on Asia’s triple burden of undernutrition, overweight, and malnutrition.

Legume Breeder Ram Nair discussed the benefits of a minicore collection for mungbean breeders. A mini-core collection is a small subset of a larger seed collection, and contains only about 1% of the entire collection. Yet the accessions in the minicore represent the genetic variability of the entire collection. Plant breeders can more easily manage the smaller subset and gain all the benefits of the genetic diversity it provides.


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