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Thailand Transforming Food Security with Nanotech

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The National Nanotechnology Center (Nanotech) under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) has engineered a groundbreaking solution in the form of nanoscale hybrid biopharmaceuticals, derived from agricultural waste materials. This innovation marks a pivotal stride in revolutionising the agricultural landscape, particularly in combating pathogenic fungi in rice fields while addressing the sustainability challenges outlined in the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) model.

Image credit: Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation

Dr Wannawithu Wannamolee and the NSTDA Nanotech research team’s ingenious solution emerges from leveraging expertise in biomass utilisation, particularly lignin – a natural substance inherent in all plants, known for its antimicrobial properties and UV protection.

The research, titled “Development of nanoscale hybrid biopharmaceuticals from lignin extracted from agricultural waste materials for use in preventing and inhibiting fungal pathogens in rice fields”, specifically targets the remediation of damages caused by fungal infections in rice fields.

By harnessing agricultural waste such as rice straw and by-products from paper production, the team has pioneered the creation of natural biological substances to replace hazardous chemicals traditionally used in farming practices.

Dr Wanwithu explained the meticulous process involved in extracting lignin from agricultural waste sources, involving physical conditioning and chemical treatment, subsequently refining it into stable nanoparticles. These nanoparticles form the core components of three distinct prototypes designed to counteract fungal pathogens in rice fields effectively.

Extensive field testing, conducted in collaboration with agricultural experts, showcased promising results. The nanohybrid biopharmaceuticals from lignin exhibited comparable efficacy to commercially available chemicals used by farmers in preventing and inhibiting fungal attacks on rice plants.

Dr Wannawithu emphasised the transformative potential of this innovation, not merely as a technological breakthrough but as a catalyst for multifaceted benefits. The initiative transforms waste materials into valuable resources, reducing production costs, preserving the environment, and augmenting farmers’ incomes. It heralds a shift toward safer, organic farming systems, aligning with the principles of the Bioeconomy, Circular Economy, and Green Economy encapsulated in the BCG framework.

The patented nanoscale hybrid biopharmaceuticals from lignin are poised for technology transfer, beckoning interested parties – be it chemical businesses seeking alternative products or farmer groups intrigued by the product’s efficacy. Encouragingly, institutions like the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives have shown interest, signalling a wider adoption and potential scalability of this innovation.

Looking ahead, NSTDA’s Nanotech envisions further development and deployment of these prototypes for public benefit, catering to diverse organisational needs while upholding innovation, sustainability, and social responsibility, ultimately benefitting Thai farmers and the agricultural ecosystem at large.

As global connections deepen, the importance of international cooperation in technology grows ever more evident. With the pressing challenge of dwindling food resources, nations acknowledge the necessity of combining efforts and exchanging breakthroughs to ensure food security.

In response to this urgency, as OpenGov Asia reported, the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR) and Spain’s Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) came together, bringing leaders and experts to the forefront at the Spain-Thailand Innovation & Tech Dialogue Platform.

This platform was a dedicated space for catalysing collaborations aimed at revolutionising sustainable food technologies. Drawing on the expertise of both TISTR and CDTI, this dialogue fostered an environment where innovative concepts flowed freely, nurturing a collective vision for a future in which technology serves as the linchpin for a resilient and sustainable food industry.

OpenGov Asia also covered African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks that have rattled Thailand, affecting pig populations across provinces and disrupting the country’s pig farming industry. To counter this highly contagious disease, BIOTEC-NSTDA in Thailand introduced the PigXY-AMP diagnostic test. Its cost-effectiveness, user-friendliness, and rapid detection capabilities represent a significant leap in combating this devastating ailment, crucial for safeguarding food security in the pig farming sector.


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