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How Pakistan can become an agriculture production powerhouse? (Part II)

But neonics are said to be partly to blame for the rise in bee mortality rates in several countries, worsening the effects of viruses, mites and long winters. The report that caused the greatest stir was published in July of this year. A team of researchers known as the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides looked at 800 peer-reviewed studies published over 20 years and concluded the negative effects of neonic are turning up in everything from ground water to worms and birds.

LET NATURE HELP NATURE! LOVE THIS!

The Native American planted corn, beans, and squash together so that they would benefit each other. The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plant utilize, and the squash spread along the ground preventing weeds. No needs of herbicides or synthetic nitrogen.

GREEN GLOBE

In 2015, the United Nations global development agenda evolves from Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) to Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs (2015-2030). The SDGs will be unique from the MDGs in that they will be universal in scope – applying to all countries, businesses, NGOs not just developing countries, and integrating dimensions of sustainability (economic, social, environmental) within development and going green. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outlining the main elements of the post-2015 agenda, provides strong guidance regarding what sustainable development should look like and what world leaders must do over the next 15 years to achieve it. A draft set of 17 goals was released in June last year, and presents targets around themes such as poverty eradication, combating climate change, and achieving sustainable economic growth.

After two years of crafting the “what” of sustainable development, the year ahead must focus on how to get it done.

PHOTOVOLTAICS-BASED PUMPING FOR IRRIGATION SYSTEM REDUCES ELECTRICITY COSTS UP TO 75%

More than 300 farmers, irrigators and SMEs visited the demonstration site of an EU-funded project MASLOWATEN in Villena (Spain) on 10 February. 360 kilowatt peak (kWp) photovoltaics-based pumping for agricultural irrigation system that reduces electricity costs up to 75% was installed there in 2016.

FINDING COST EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS FOR WATER, ENERGY AND FOOD SECTORS

For the end user, such as farmers and irrigators, this system would reduce dramatically their resource consumption and thus costs. Four other demonstration sites have been installed in the north of Spain, Italy, Portugal and Morocco. In the first three sites, MASLOWATEN also demonstrates the use of special low pressure irrigation systems, which bring reduction in water use up to 30%.

The project estimates the creation of a real market of six GW power of large-scale irrigation systems in the first ten years of exploitation of results, meaning a total business of nine billion euro for the private companies involved in the project. MASLOWATEN is expected to reach out to at least 30,000 end-users and achieve market replication through at least 20 SMEs.

The project addresses three critical and mutually interlinked sectors – water, energy and food – in line with the objectives of the European Innovation Partnership on Water and the EU’s Resource Efficiency Roadmap. It also promotes the use of renewable energy.

BOOSTING ECO-INNOVATION

MASLOWATEN is an Innovation Action funded under Horizon 2020 (September 2015 – September 2018). Its core objective is to demonstrate the environmental, technical and economic feasibility of photovoltaics based irrigation solutions using automatisms and Information and Communication Technologies.

The ultimate goal of the project is scaling up of the system and its market uptake through the development of technical specifications (currently available in Spanish) and quality control procedures for contractual frameworks and bankability of the results.

Electric cars and cheap solar ‘could halt fossil fuel growth by 2020’Solar power and clean cars are ‘game changers’ consistently underestimated by big energy, says Imperial College and Carbon Tracker report By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050.

By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050.

Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested. A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “game changers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded.

Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.

Emerging technology, such as printable solar photovoltaics, which generate electricity, could bring down costs and boost take-up even more than currently predicted.

CHINA BUILDS WORLD’S BIGGEST SOLAR FARM IN JOURNEY TO BECOME GREEN SUPERPOWER

The cost of solar has fallen 85% in seven years, and the report finds panels could supply 23% of global power generation by 2040 and 29% by 2050, entirely phasing coal out and leaving natural gas with just a 1% share.

By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050, when it could displace 25m barrels of oil per day. Under such a scenario, coal and oil demand could peak in 2020, while the growth in gas demand could be curtailed.

It could also limit global temperature rises to between 2.4C and 2.7C above pre-industrial levels, while more ambitious action by countries than currently pledged, along with falling costs of solar and electric vehicles, could limit warming to 2.1C to 2.3C.

– Drip irrigation is 95% efficient compared to 65% for overhead sprinklers. Help your community save water and keep your plants healthy in the hottest, driest summer.
– Drip is ideal for growing new windbreaks (shelterbelts). There is no loss to overspray and wind-blown water.
– Valuable row crops achieve maximum growth with precision watering by drip irrigation. Avoid wetting leaves and reduce water waste with drip irrigation.
– Drip irrigation avoids the mosquito-breeding puddles that often result from overhead sprinklers.
– Drip irrigation is the only irrigation technology that works well on hillsides. With the right installation, plants at the top of the slope and those plants at the bottom receive the same amount of water.
– Wind has no effect on drip irrigation which is installed close to the ground. In Israel 100 % irrigated area is drip irrigated.

DECREASING CANCER RISK

Phytonutrients and certain antioxidant vitamins and minerals are a newer area of focus in nutrition research that becomes more and more exciting every year, they are a type of plant compound that have a ton of health benefits. Many of these phytonutrients appear to play an important role in decreasing cancer risk by protecting cells from DNA damage or mutation, reducing inflammation, and stimulating the immune system to help destroy mutated cells.

Examples of phytonutrients include resveratrol, carotenoids (found in dark green, red, orange, purple, and blue veggies), ellagic acid (found in cranberries), and flavonoids (found in dark chocolate, and tea).

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

Gene recombination technology has generated both expectation and anxiety among its many followers. On the one hand, this new technology demonstrates a potential for increasing agricultural productivity. On the other hand, it enhances the risk of damaging the natural environment and consumers ‘health. The reduction of such risks is one of the primary goals of the Japanese government’s food policy.

RESEARCHERS RELEASE 15 NEW POTATO VARIETIES

Genomic tools are increasingly used to identify favorable traits and speed the breeding process. Red-skinned varieties made up half of the total selections that Ag Canada potato breeders released earlier this month during their annual release open house. This includes a multi-purpose variety that shows promise for processing as wedges and as a traditional table potato. Breeders have also developed Russet selections that have a longer shelf life in cold storage while maintaining stable sugars, making them attractive new selections to french fry processors. In all, 15 potato selections were unveiled this year. The selections were narrowed down from more than 100,000 hybrid seedlings that were grown, tested, and measured over six years in Agriculture Canada greenhouses, laboratories, and fields across the country.

Researchers are increasingly using DNA technology to identify genes and strands linked to favorable traits. This will lead to the development of germplasm with the potential for better yields, nutritional value, and cooking and processing qualities. The selections also feature disease and pest resistance that makes them less demanding on the environment and offers alternative choices for organic growers. With each genetic marker that is identified, researchers are able to more quickly and accurately search through hundreds of different kinds of potatoes (including centuries’ old heritage varieties and wild species) for potential breeding lines that will produce new hybrids with the desired traits.

Alberta is Canada’s third-largest producer of potatoes, trailing only P.E.I. and Manitoba.

Production is centred in irrigated areas near Lethbridge, Taber, Vauxhall, and the Bassano-Brooks region, and the Edmonton and Lacombe areas are important seed potato production regions. An average of 52,500 planted acres were reported for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 crop years. The sector generates about $1 billion in March 7, 2017.

TechAccel, a venture and developmental partner focused on the agriculture, animal health, and food sectors, announced that it has completed an equity investment of $3.2 million that will be part of an extended Series A for Epicrop Technologies Inc. – an agricultural biotechnology company that employs cutting-edge epigenetic technology to increase crop yields. Other investors in the round include North Forty Ventures, Nelnet, Speedway Properties, and Allen & Co.

Originally named in 1942 by scientist Conrad H. Waddington, the field of epigenetics involves the study of “potentially heritable changes in gene expression, “according to the site, What Is Epigentics?, which goes on to note that the work however, does not involve changes to the DNA sequence. Instead it entails changing a phenotype without changing the genotype, which changes how cells read the genes.

Epicrop Technologies is a Nebraska-based seed technology licensing company that bases its work on the epigenetic advances made by the company’s co-founder, Sally Mackenzie, a professor of agronomy and horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Using conventional plant breeding techniques integrated with molecular markers, Epicrop can create and select plants displaying particularly strong vigor traits and that provide higher yields.

“Increasing yield and stress tolerance are key goals of most seed companies,” said Dr. Michael Fromm, co-founder and CEO of Epicrop. “Epicrop’s method has the potential to provide these traits by adding epigenetic information directly to the seeds of commercial varieties without adding any genetic material. The unique features of this method readily fit into traditional commercial breeding and seed production methods to facilitate company adoption of this system.”

“We believe Dr. Mackenzie’s research may represent the most important breakthrough in crop breeding technology of this era,” said Jeff Raikes, principal of North Forty Ventures and lead investor in the series. “We’re pleased to support the commercialization of this research at Epicrop and look forward to the impact it will have for global agriculture.”

Under its partnership model of investing and acceleration, TechAccel focuses on companies that have “a strong science advancement need” – something TechAccel can bridge through its access to technological expertise and R&D initiatives via its network of agribusinesses and universities.

Moving forward, TechAccel and Epicrop plan to establish a joint venture that will develop new target crops through the use of Epicrop’s technology.

“We’re excited to have TechAccel in our corner, both as an investor and a research partner advancing our technology,” said Fromm. “Their expertise and support will help Epicrop accelerate its programs demonstrating the enormous potential of epigenetics to increase yields and stress tolerance in a variety of crops.”

This is the second investment announced by TechAccel within a month, following closely after TechAccel and Iowa Corn Opportunities, the equity funding arm of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, jointly announced separate investments in St. Louis-based biotech animal nutrition company Agrivida Inc.

Founded in 2004 by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Agrivida has developed a biomolecular technology platform of plant-expressed enzymes derived from corn that can significantly improve the performance of animal nutrition products.

“Agrivida is focused on poultry and swine at the moment using the corn plant as the manufacturing facility for those enzymatic products, but we think there’s opportunity to work with other plants such as soy or to create products for other animals,” Michael Helmstetter from TechAccel told AgFunder. “By partnering with us and our allied universities, we will help Agrivida move into the other areas faster than they might themselves without negatively impacting their bandwidth, but by adding value.”

TechAccel is taking the same course with Epicrop, which has received two Phase 1 competitive federal Small Business Innovation Research grants, and is seeking out partnerships with several leaders in the seed industry for the improvement of the current top seed varieties on the market.

“We believe Epicrop is emerging as a leader with its revolutionary plant breeding platform, and TechAccel is ready to collaborate with Epicrop to advance this science for at least two additional crops.

FOOD SAFETY SYSTEMS

A key weapon in the fight for a safer supply system is what the industry calls traceability, the ability to track a pound of ground beef back to the farm, or forward to the restaurant at which it is eaten. Such accountability is important in the case of a disease outbreak, allowing authorities to find the sources of a problem and fix it.

Traceability is the most powerful tool when it comes to managing risks across supply chains, and more and more as governments cut in inspection capacity, more and more industries should make themselves accountable to the public, and industry will have to make industry accountable to itself.

Tests on the levels of pesticides and other chemicals. Enough testing should be done at stores to ensure chemical levels on food are safe. We talk a lot about the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture, but we rarely make the link between those practices and true exposure for consumers.

Establishing acceptable levels of radiation in what we eat. In response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan implemented the toughest standards for acceptable levels of radioactivity in drinking water, milk and food. The country’s limit for radiation in drinking water is 10 bequerel per litre, compared with Canada’s 100. For baby food, the Japanese limit is 50, compared with Canada’s 1,000.

RETURN ON AGRICULTURE INVESTMENT

Corporate investment in Western Australia farm land could reach as high as 25 per cent between 2025 and 2050, per a leading corporate investment adviser.

Speaking at the GRDC Regional Business Updates, well-known industry adviser Ken Sevenson said while corporate investment in the Australian agriculture industry was not new, only about 1 per cent of freehold farm land in WA was currently owned by foreign corporate entities.

Mr Sevenson predicted the boom in corporate investment in WA farm land would also bring about a productivity boom because of the injection of new capital, new ideas and new players in the industry.

“My prediction is that between 2025 and 2050, we will see the 20/20 rule apply, that is, there will be 20 million sheep and 20 million tonnes of grain delivered, coupled with 25 per cent of all farmland owned by corporate investors or sovereign funds,” he said.

“There will be quite an infusion of capital into the market place, but the important question is how are these corporate investors going to operate?”

He said corporate investment in agriculture could take any number of forms, such as share farming, joint ventures, leasing, collaboration, or even full management and control models.

“About 50 per cent of farm businesses currently lease additional farmland, however, most of these leases have a longevity of between three to six years. The corporate investor is looking for a longer-term investment,” he said.

But he warned that family farms wanting to attract corporate investment would have to change their current business model.

“Today, most farming families are still in a duopoly business model with a trading bank as a major equity partner,” he said. “There is flexibility about what and how it all could happen, but if you are going to have new capital come into your business that challenges this duopoly model, you really need to have a look at how you might change your business structure. The current model of family farming, while a very good business model, is like an old steam train, it hisses and grunts a lot but with proper care and attention it performs the task required. It’s a resilient model but does require a bit of care.”

Mr Sevenson said this new era would also see the creation what he termed the “Scintillating 500” group of farmers. “Five hundred key farmers will be producing 16 million tonnes of the State’s total grain production,” he said.

“These are the people who will be running the show, so to speak, and it’s how we interact with this group that will be important.” He said corporate investors would be most interested in this group of key farmers.

“If you want to ensure you are one of these Scintillating 500, you should achieve certain scales of operation,” he said. “My numbers suggest that by 2025-2050 you would need to deliver 25,000 tonnes of grain, have $5 million of income and $25 million worth of capital to be part of this group.”

Mr Sevenson said corporate investors could take the form of investment funds, pension funds, sovereign food companies or wealthy individuals.

“One of the reasons they are interested in Australian agriculture is that there is not the risk associated with other investments,” he said.

“Obviously, there are correlating issues with a return on that investment, but WA has a 30-40-year history of land-asset appreciation, which makes this an attractive proposition.”

Lufthansa helps establish $600 million biofuel fund: The fund is targeting an internal rate of return of over 20 percent. The oil, also known as feedstock, will then be sold to refineries to create jet fuel or bio-kerosene; Lufthansa will have an offtake agreement to buy back the jet fuel. Lufthansa has already found a farm in Cameroon to acquire and grow jatropha, the Mexican flowering plant, for its seeds. It is a perennial crop – one that lives for two years or more.

The fund will also acquire farmland to grow camelina, an annual crop that produces oil seeds. This land is more likely to be in Eastern Europe, according to Buse.

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