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ARDA joins hands with Mitr Phol Group to develop and enhance commercial agriculture technology Aiming at bringing comprehensive solution to Thai farmers, aligned with Pracha Rath strategy

The Agricultural Research Development Agency (ARDA) and Mitr Phol Group signed a collaborative research & development agreement for sustainable agriculture technology development. Aiming at achieving practical approach, commercial viability and create value addition to agricultural products, while enhancing the capacity of agricultural research workforce in Thailand through academic and research network collaboration, the R&D collaboration covers three projects: paddy fields management by crop rotation and soil rehabilitation, biocontrol development and biofertilizer development. The first paddy fields management by crop rotation and soil rehabilitation project is planned to be implemented in 2017 by growing soybean after rice harvesting utilizing modern agriculture technology at Chum Phae district and Phu Pha Man district in Khon Kaen province with a budget of more than Baht 5.4 million.  
General Chatchai Sarikulya, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) said that “Thai agriculture situation has changed considerably in the recent years due to weather fluctuations, decreasing agricultural land, aging workforce resulting in more dependence on farming machine, crop price largely determined by market demand, increasing consumer demand for safe and good quality crop products and many farmers suffering insufficient income.  MOAC has initiated ‘A4 Strategy’ to support Thai farmers in adopting modern farming approach to increase income and take pride of farming by reducing costs, making full use of cultivated land, maximizing crop yield and raising standard of crop products. To achieve these requires the right application of knowledge and technology in modern farming, mixed farming, and use of agricultural map for adaptive management (Agri-Map). We also encourage farmers to further look into large scale farming, organic farming and adopt good agriculture practices.  Our 882 agricultural productivity promotion learning centers located nationwide serve as the key platform for knowledge transfer, information sharing and agricultural service point for the community. Given the government’s limited fiscal budget, collaboration with the private sector with ready access to equipment and technology, with all sectors of society work together under the concept of ‘Pracha Rath’, is essential to uplift Thai agricultural sector. This collaboration focuses on the projects that are easy to implement, require low investment, and bring sustainable benefits, and will be a model for other new efforts. Three initial projects under this collaboration are paddy fields management by crop rotation and soil rehabilitation, biocontrol development and biofertilizer development. I would like to thank all parties that drive this research effort which supports the achievement of A4 strategy and wish this collaboration every success.”  
Isara Vongkusolkit, Head of Private Team; People-Private-Public Collaborative Committee  (Pracha Rath) and Chairman of Mitr Phol Group said that “With the private sector’s active participation and collaboration in the development of Thai agricultural sector in response to the government’s Pracha Rath strategy for almost two years, modern know-how and expertise in innovation and technology have been applied to help enhance the agriculture sector to substantially achieve higher productivity, deliver products that better meet market demand and reduce operating costs, which are comprehensive solutions for most Thai farmers.”    
“The collaboration between ARDA and Mitr Phol Group aims at bringing agricultural research to achieve sustainable agricultural development, mitigating income gap and minimizing environmental impact. This is an agricultural revolution at all levels - from upstream towards downstream, and the research findings can be used for the real benefits of a wide range of Thai people.”  
According to Panpimol Chanyanuwat, Director of ARDA, “The collaboration with Mitr Phol Group is a part of our mission to support the policy of the government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in agricultural research development. The both parties share a common interest in conducting agricultural research in an efficient manner, optimizing the utilization of available resources e.g., information, workforce, technology, materials, tools, equipment and facilities, as well as improving the skill and knowledge in agricultural research, enhancing the country’s competitiveness and experience in the field. Moreover, we strive to make the most out of the research benefits in both policy and commercial levels in hope to bring a better quality of life to Thai farmers by helping them  create wealth in a sustainable way.”      
Krisda Monthienvichienchai, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mitr Phol Group, said that “We are delighted to work closely with ARDA to conduct research and push it forward for the development of Thai agriculture sector and commercial benefits. Thai farmers account for one-third of the country’s population while the revenue they generate in total is less than 10% of Thai GDP.  This effort will help support Thai agriculture sector to create higher revenue, and supports the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2017-2021), which sets goal for the agriculture sector to grow not less than 3% annually, and also in line with Mitr Phol’s ‘Grow Together’ principle we adhere throughout the 60 years in business.”

Mitr Phol Group highly values research and development. Mitr Phol Innovation & Research Center has been set up for over 20 years and currently has over 80 researchers holding both master’s and doctoral degrees with expertise in diversified fields including sugar, sugarcane, biochemistry, etc.  Mitr Phol Group allocates 1 - 1.5% of its total income each year for research and development. The group’s research topic started from sugarcane and then expanded into other agricultural topics with aim to bring benefits to the agriculture sector. With deep understanding and close relationship with Thai farmers, the group has the capacity to disseminate research findings among Thai agriculture sector in order to achieve substantial commercial benefits.     

ARDA - Mitr Phol Group collaborative research and development agreement covers three projects, as follows:
  1. Paddy fields management by crop rotation and soil rehabilitation - aims to increase efficiency of the utilization of paddy fields. Due to the oversupply of rice in Thailand, the project tries to find an alternative crop for farmers. Soybean is a good alternative of crop rotation as the domestic market demand is high, at average 2 million tons annually, while local production is as low as only 50,000 tons per year. The project will study how to produce the good quality of soybean both seed and grain. The project will be done on the total of 150-rai area, with the application of modern farm management and large scale farming. The result of the project will lead to extendibility of 1,000-rai area.

  1. Biocontrol development
    - supports the government’s policy to promote organic farming in order to mitigate the use of chemical pesticide in Thai agriculture. The project will study the development of an innovated biopesticide which reduce the risk of farmer’s exposure to harmful chemicals. The number of reported patients with illness from pesticide toxin has continued to increase, from 1,851 in 2010 to 8,066 in 2012. The effort will also help reduce the country’s import of chemical pesticide, which accounts for 150,000 tons, equal to Baht 20,000 million annually.       
  2. Biofertilizer development
    - with long time of bad agriculture practice without sustainability concerns, coupled with the recent climate change issues and geographical feature, many agricultural lands in Thailand have become infertile due to soil infertility. According to the Land Development Department, up to 182 million rai of land in Thailand is infertile. The project will study methods to improve soil quality in infertile land for health plant growth, starting at sandy soil.