February 25, 2024

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Digital Harvest: DOST’s Smart Agriculture Initiatives

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is spearheading a comprehensive initiative to revolutionise agriculture in the Cordillera region, with a primary focus on integrating science, technology, and innovations (STI) to address existing challenges related to vegetable overproduction and marketability.

Image credits: Philippine Information Agency

Secretary Renato Solidum Jr., during his recent visit to Baguio City, emphasised the critical role of collaborative efforts among various stakeholders, including government agencies, state universities, local government units (LGUs), and industry participants, to collectively devise and implement innovative solutions.

Recognising agriculture as a pivotal industry in the region, Secretary Solidum expressed the DOST’s commitment to providing support and interventions based on the needs and aspirations of local government units and farmer cooperatives. While acknowledging that the DOST may not be the lead agency in the agricultural domain, the department is positioned to play a crucial supporting role, aligning its efforts with the objectives of regional stakeholders.

DOST’s ongoing programs and initiatives underscore its dedication to leveraging STI for the benefit of the agriculture sector. The Baguio-Benguet area, a key agricultural hub, has been a focal point for several projects.

Notable among them is the Potato Research and Development (R&D) Center at Benguet State University, dedicated to advancing research studies on potato and sweet potato. The centre aims to enhance production efficiency by developing quality seeds, implementing effective insect and pest management, and addressing diseases that impact crop yield.

Collaborating with Benguet State University, the DOST has also established the Food Innovation Center. This joint effort aims to boost the innovativeness of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) involved in vegetable processing.

By providing access to efficient and modern food processing equipment, the centre seeks to empower local food industries to improve their existing products and explore the development of new byproducts using locally sourced agricultural produce.

Furthermore, the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), an integral part of DOST’s initiatives, is designed to enhance the productivity of MSMEs by facilitating technology transfer and upgrading equipment. SETUP contributes significantly to fortifying the technological capabilities of businesses, fostering innovation, and driving economic development within the region.

As DOST continues to channel resources and expertise into these strategic endeavours, the goal is not only to address immediate challenges in agriculture but also to create a sustainable and technology-driven framework that fosters long-term growth.

Through the convergence of government, academia, and industry, the DOST envisions a resilient and thriving agricultural sector in the Cordillera region, setting the stage for broader economic prosperity and technological advancement.

OpenGov Asia reported that The University of the Philippines Los Baños on Project SARAI – a groundbreaking remote-sensing technology with the potential to revolutionise Philippine agriculture through data-driven policymaking.

The flagship initiative employs near real-time monitoring of production areas, with its distinctive strength lying in community-level deployment, empowering agriculturists and farmers. The mobile app plays a pivotal role, allowing farmers to contribute essential data, fostering a direct link between technology and grassroots engagement in shaping agricultural policies.

In line with national ambitions, Dr Juanito Batalon, OIC of the Office of the Executive Director for Research and Development at the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), highlighted the transformative impact of digitalisation on the Philippines’ agricultural sector, ushering in an era of innovation and efficiency.

The integration of digital technologies, driven by the nation’s reliance on agriculture for food security and livelihoods, is reshaping agricultural practices. Precision agriculture, utilising GPS technology, drones, and satellite imagery, stands out as a key beneficiary, optimising planting, irrigation, and pest management to enhance crop yields, save resources, and reduce environmental impact.

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