Innovation lies at the core of Indo-Pacific agricultural production and food security. Innovative practices from battery operated plasma guns to break the cycle of mould growing on food, to three dimensional vertical farming hubs harnessing natural energy and minimising land use, were outlined at the In the Zone 2016: Feeding the zone forum in Jakarta today.
Speakers from across the zone addressed the issue of innovation in short presentations highlighting the exciting activities underway to meet the challenge of feeding a growing regional middle-class population, climate change and the rapid urbanisation of land.
Hashtag food security movement to inspire youth
Indonesian actress and independent filmmaker Chelsea Islan, 20, said she had hardly thought about food security and what it meant for young people, but when confronted with the information and an invitation to inspire youth she embraced it.
Ms Islan led the presentations with a social media challenge to keep the conversation alive on social media through the creation of hashtags such as #planyourshopping and #dontwastefood, to highlight the issues on a medium familiar to youth.
She also encouraged delegates to know where their food came from and to pay a fair price when buying fresh produce to ensure farmers were fairly compensated for their costs and effort.
Communities connect in urban gardens
Social media communities have reclaimed run-down and unused urban land in Indonesia for farming, in a social movement that has unlocked innovative and creative opportunities to address food production and community connectivity, according to architect and designer Sigit Kusumawijaya.
He said urban farming ‘Indonesia Berkebun’ had become a social movement across the country opening up new places for children to play, where people could connect and food could be grown.
Plasma gun and bio-security measures to stop food wastage
Scientists were researching a battery-operated, household-use plasma ‘gun’ in their efforts to minimise food waste, according to Dr Kirsty Bayliss, Plant Pathologist and Academic Chair of Plant Biosecurity Program at Murdoch University.
The plasma gun would spray plasma over food to trap its freshness and reduce the growth of mould, causing it to perish quickly. Dr Bayliss said the device was currently being tested on avocadoes and showing positive results.
Dr Bayliss’ research focuses on chemical-free methods to control the mould, so that more food was available for consumption. She said consumers did not want food that had been treated with pesticides and so researchers had discovered the use of plasma as a chemical-free alternative.
Dr Bayliss challenged the notion that the zone needed to grow more food and said instead the region needed to stop wasting the food it currently produced.
“Current estimates say we need to increase food production by 70 per cent to meet the food requirements of the world population in 2050. I challenge that, and argue that given we waste anywhere from 30-50 per cent of all food, we actually already produce enough to eat,” Dr Bayliss said.
“The challenge is to reduce food waste, particularly losses of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
She emphasised the importance of biosecurity in underpinning food security in the region.
“Bio- security is the protection of our plants and animals, especially our agricultural systems, our economy and our environment from pests. Bio-secuity is essential from farm to fork,” she said citing examples of crops being wiped out entirely when new diseases infiltrate borders.
Increasing bio-security measures and understanding their significance in the role of preserving food crops, rather than their destruction, essentially meant no more food was needed, just better protection for current yields.
“So if we want to increase supply and secure our markets then we need bio-security.”
Rice revolution for zone
Rice, the staple food in Asia, will continue to feed the region following research and innovation which has boosted yields and introduced hardy varieties which can be grown in any condition, according to Dr Yoichiro Kato, Rainfed Lowland Agronomist for South East Asia and Drought & Submergence Workgroup Leader in IFAD-CURE, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Dr Kato highlighted the tight link between rice and culture and saying the consumption of rice in the region varied from 57kg per annum per capita in Japan to 228kg per annum per capita in Myanmar.
He said the mission of the IRRI was to reduce poverty and hunger and increase environmental sustainability through dynamic rice science, to meet the ever increasing food needs of the region.
The IRRI research efforts had already increased rice yields by 11.2 per cent, created totally new short grain rice varieties resistant to erosion and enabled three crops per year to be grown irrespective of weather. He said rice was the only food crop that could adapt to flood or drought environmental conditions.
IP has changed the face of innovation and food production
Winthrop Professor Michael Blakeney, of The University of Western Australia, highlighted the issue of climate change in the race for agricultural innovation and said researchers were exploring the opportunity of farmers to innovate and apply global learning into local conditions.
Sonia Nolan, Media Manager, In the Zone 2016