The Council of Agriculture (COA) of the Executive Yuan held the presentation ceremony for the “2021 National Agricultural Science Award” on December 14, 2021. This is the second time these awards have been presented, following the 1st National Agricultural Science Award in 2019. Premier Su Tseng-chang specially attended the 2021 event and delivered congratulatory remarks, affirming the dedication and contributions made to agriculture by all the award winners. Awards were presented in four major categories: “forward-looking innovation,” “socio-economic development,” “contributions to industry,” and “environmental sustainability.” In each category three research teams were selected, winning awards from “most outstanding” (with a medal and NT$200,000 in prize money) and “excellent” (with a medal and NT$150,000) to “honorable mention” (a medal and a certificate of merit), for a total of 12 award-winning teams. In addition, in each category one “newcomer with outstanding potential” was selected, with a medal and NT$50,000 presented to a total of four winners. The purpose of the awards is to encourage outstanding new research personnel to devote themselves to research into agricultural technology.
Highest award in the nation for agricultural technology research; emphasis on cross-disciplinary integration, team accomplishments, and resolving critical problems faced by agriculture
The COA states that the “2021 National Agricultural Science Award” event was true to the spirit of the original. Besides being defined as the highest awards in the nation for agricultural technology R&D, they also emphasize mitigating or solving critical problems currently faced by or soon to be faced by agriculture in Taiwan. These awards encourage researchers to use cross-disciplinary integration, teamwork, and a problem-solving orientation as their jumping off points; to devote themselves to agricultural technology research; to make substantive contributions to agriculture; and to resolve practical agricultural problems. Unlike past awards which emphasized individual accomplishments, the National Agricultural Science Award focuses on the practical application of R&D results and technology to agriculture.
Leading the transformation of agriculture: Application of Big Data analysis and construction of a farmers’ welfare platform, smart mass production of natural enemies of insects, electromagnetic preservative technology for agriproducts, and a model for circular operations in agriculture and animal husbandry
The COA explains that in the area of socio-economic development, the winner of the award for “most outstanding” in that category was the “farmers’ welfare Big Data administrative innovation team” for constructing a farmers’ welfare Big Data platform. Through applications of Big Data linkages and analysis of farmers’ welfare data, they not only greatly enhanced administrative efficiency and assisted in the promotion of various welfare measures, within three days they completed direct payments to 990,000 farmers and opened farmers’ pension accounts for 450,000 farmers. In terms of contributions to the public interest, through review and comparison of data using the farmers’ welfare Big Data platform, they saved about NT$46.9 billion in expenditures. At the same time they assisted in adjusting the qualifications for collecting the “welfare allowance for elderly farmers” to seniority of 15 years or more, allowing savings of about NT$3 billion per year on average. This makes the system more fair and just. Moreover, through investment of the money saved into programs like agricultural infrastructure and guidance of young farmers, the project allows for the creation of even more public benefits.
In the area of industrial competitiveness, the focal point of future development is on agriproduct cold chains that combine preliminary post-harvest handling, warehousing, and packaging. The “electromagnetic preservative technology value-added services platform team” won the award this year for constructing a physical preservative module and active packaging, which can effectively extend the shelf life of fisheries and agricultural products by two to three times over. This can increase the period of time that agriproducts are on sale in stores and reduce the loss of functional ingredients in agriproducts, increasing the derivative benefits of fisheries and agricultural products. The relevant technology has already been transferred to industry and is currently in use. In the future it can be combined with warehouse space or long-distance shipping containers to further raise the quality and potential sales of agriproducts from Taiwan.
In the area of the environment and food safety, with respect to the problem of reducing the amount of chemical pesticides used (which has gotten a lot of public attention), the “smart technology for mass production of natural enemies of insects team,” which won a 2nd National Agricultural Science Award, created technology that can reduce the manpower costs for production of natural enemies of insects by over 90%, and reduce overall production costs by over 70%. When the system is fully operational production volume is four times higher than when using traditional production methods. Already one new start-up company has been founded. Proper use of insects’ natural enemies can greatly reduce the number of times farmers use insecticides, and increase the potential adoption of eco-friendly cultivation. This can also reduce the adverse effects on the environment caused by extensive use of pesticides during crop production as well as lower the risks from pesticide residues, thereby upgrading food safety. This technology thus simultaneously takes into account the policy goals of sustainable cultivation and food safety.
In the area of zero carbon emissions, the problem of greenhouse effects caused by carbon emissions in the animal husbandry industry has long been a subject of international concern. The 2nd National Agricultural Science Award-winning “animal husbandry waste circular value-added use team” created a demonstration farm for handling wastewater which can reduce carbon emissions by 9,500 metric tons per year, thereby offering a model for circular use of agricultural waste.
The research achievements attained through inter-disciplinary cooperation by all of this year’s award-winning research teams causes us to look forward to continued and expanded development in the future which will yield comprehensive benefits for all of agriculture, as well as bring to life the vision of “agriculture for all” with happy farmers, safe agriculture, and prosperous rural communities, while achieving Taiwan’s goal of sustainable agricultural development.
Encouraging cross-disciplinary talent to work together to create innovative technology to become a new force for agriculture in Taiwan
The National Agricultural Science Award is the highest level award in Taiwan for agricultural research. These awards aim to encourage even more outstanding domestic inter-disciplinary scientific talent to devote themselves to technology R&D work with potential to assist agriculture with forward-looking innovation, socio-economic development, environmental sustainability, and substantive contributions to industry. The goal is to resolve basic problems of agriculture in Taiwan, such as the manpower structure, scale of farms, adjustment of production and sales, sales channels, processing, and other agricultural infrastructure issues. Even more, it is hoped that through cross-disciplinary research and advanced technology and techniques, researchers can solve agriculture-related problems caused by global political, economic, and environmental change. In addition, besides the fact that the teams participating in the National Agricultural Science Award event have senior experts guiding young researchers to collaboratively research relevant technologies, we can also see in them the vitality of youth and the creation of innovative technologies and techniques. Not only do these teams pass along knowledge and experience from generation to generation and have creativity, they also demonstrate the hope and value of agriculture. It is anticipated that through the sense of accomplishment and honor gained by winning an award, researchers will carry their accomplishments and their creative spirit into the future, so that agricultural development in Taiwan stays in step with the times and continuously advances.