Thailand’s food and agricultural industries not only generate several billion baht a year in economic value, but also have been an important part of the Thai way of life which still focuses on agriculture. However, even though Thailand is a major exporter of agricultural and food products, the country’s competitive capability has been declining due to several factors such as the fact that raw material exports outweigh those of value-added processed products; the limited use of new technologies in plant and animal breeding; climate change and pest epidemics and stricter trade measures, etc.
Considering these factors, NSTDA realizes that science and technology is an important tool that will ensure sustainable competitive capability for the Thai food and agricultural industries. Operations of the Agriculture and Food Cluster thus focus on 2 target groups:
1. Small farmers – in this group, members are encouraged to join forces to produce quality products.
2. Plantation owners – in this group, the focus is on producing key export products such as tapioca, rubber and shrimp. The objectives for this group are to increase productivity, produce quality products, reduce manufacturing process losses and promote sustainability.
The Agriculture and Food Cluster consists of 7 research programs:
The Rice Program aims to increase the rice industry’s competitive capability throughout the production chain while reducing environmental impact. Key operation plans include:
1) Developing technologies to increase rice production efficiency, i.e. breeding rice varieties that are resistant to pests and can adapt to climate change caused by global warming, transferring high-quality grain production technology to farmers, developing and transferring agricultural equipment and machine production technology for higher efficiency and lower planting and harvesting costs, and developing ICT that to monitor rice disease and pest outbreaks.
2) Improving milling and drying efficiency, reducing energy use and milling waste for SMEs.
3) Developing production process technology and rice-based products.
4) Improving logistics efficiency.
The Tapioca Program aims to increase the Thai tapioca industry’s competitive capability throughout the production chain while reducing environmental impact. Key operation plans include:
1) Developing technology to increase tapioca production efficiency, managing tapioca varieties, soils, water, doing R&D work in biotechnology for breeding, and developing agricultural machinery technology to be used in managing, planting and harvesting tapioca.
2) Improving tapioca starch production efficiency in order to reduce energy use during production processes.
3) Developing technologies/processes involved in the production of modified tapioca starch and tapioca products, in particular focusing on new technologies for tapioca starch modification, processing technology that creates new tapioca products and creating new added values for the industry.
The Rubber Program focuses on R&D that leads to solutions or new opportunities for the Thai rubber industry. Key operation plans include:
1) Breeding drought-resistant rubber varieties using DNA marker technology.
2) Developing natural rubber production technology innovations in order to increase efficiency, and reduce energy use and pollution. Examples of such innovations are the block rubber machine innovation, the block rubber production technology innovation, the new rubber milk preservation technology innovation and the rubber sheet smoking plant furnace innovation.
3) Improving the Thailand’s tyre industry competitive capability by increasing the efficiency of production machinery and upgrading tyre testing to meet international standards and doing R&D work to improve the quality of Thai-made tyres.
4) Improving Thai rubber product industries’ competitive capability, i.e. increasing machine and equipment efficiency in the rubber glove industry, creating a device that uses an electron beam to vulcanize rubber and creating innovation for safe rubber products.
The Seed Program aims to form a 50:50 research collaboration with the private sector through the use of biotechnology to breed new varieties. Key operation plans include:
1) Evaluating germplasms and studying important genes in target plants, namely chili, tomato, maize and cucumber.
2) Developing biotechnology for breeding.
3) Developing diagnostic and disease management technology.
4) Developing greenhouse technology aiming at the creation of a seed greenhouse industry in Thailand.
The Plants for the Future Program focuses on sugar cane and oil palm and on breeding new varieties with desired traits, i.e. the ability to adapt to the world’s changing temperatures and giving higher yields. Key operation plans include:
1) Breeding energy plant varieties and global warming-adaptable plant varieties using modern technology, creating plant breeders who are knowledgeable in biotechnology and building an infrastructure conducive to technology development.
2) Increasing yield per area unit by applying suitable technology and agricultural area management.
The Animal Production and Animal Health Program aims to build animal production technology strengths by using local resources/raw materials. Key operation plans include:
1) Developing/breeding pig and shrimp varieties that are suitable for local environment.
2) Developing animal feed and using local raw materials to cut costs and reduce substance accumulation/contamination.
3) Developing technology to control disease control and increase diagnostic efficiency.
The Food Innovation Program aims to develop high quality and safe food products for consumers and add value to products. Key operation plans include:
1) Building risk assessment capability.
2) Developing products and improving production process efficiency to add value to products.