Agriculture is a basic industry that is vital to national development and social stability, and also is a green industry that is extremely critical to coping with climate change. Agriculture in Taiwan, following socio-economic development and changes in the overall environment, faces many challenges including the intensifying impact of climate change on regional agricultural production, aging of the rural population leading to a shortage of rural labor, and global economic and trade liberalization. In 2014 the Executive Yuan convened the “BioTaiwan Committee,” and decided that a main direction of future development would be “Strengthen the action program for take-off of bioindustries, advance toward the age of the bioeconomy in Taiwan.”
As a result, in 2017 the Council of Agriculture (COA), acting on the basis of the Executive Yuan’s main directions for development and on the New Agriculture blueprint, began promotion of a four-year technology development plan entitled “Program for Promoting Agricultural Bioeconomy: Toward Global Competitiveness and Sustainability” with the goals of filling in gaps in industrial chains and conforming to sustainable development. The program was implemented in two phases. For phase one the four major areas were “applications of agricultural genomes,” “new varieties of animals and plants,” “animal and plant health management,” and “use of agricultural by-products,” with the goal being to strengthen basic R&D capabilities. Phase two was focused on 11 industries (poultry, swine, ruminants, companion animals, plant genomes, plant cultivation, products for the elderly, cosmetics, Taiwan tilapia, seawater ornamental fish, and seafood invertebrates) in order to directly link scientific research capabilities to industrial problems. Besides working towards breakthroughs and innovations in scientific research, the COA supplemented this by developing industrial services capabilities, providing diverse guidance and horizontal links between various industries, encouraging a qualitative transformation in the overall agricultural bioeconomy, and maximizing industrial synergy.
Over the past four years, this program, as a result of cooperation and effort by business, government, and academia and by effectively integrating outstanding domestic agritechnology industries, has driven overall local or industrial development and produced abundant results. In terms of academic accomplishments, thanks to the development of new breeding techniques and technologies, breeding periods have been reduced by 5-50% and disease incidence has declined by 5-25%. At the same time, 584 academic articles have been published and 819 high-level skilled personnel have been trained, setting a stable and deep foundation for agritechnology R&D and its applications. In terms of the substantive development of industries, the program has led to the development of 100 product prototypes (including 14 new plant and animal breeds with high economic value, such as the Brown Tsaiya duck LRI 3, the Fenghui Hsiaying Red-Brand country chicken, the Black Velvet Silkie Chicken, melon ‘Tainung No.2’, and cherry tomato ‘Hualien No.22’ and ‘Hualien No.23’ varieties), and there have been 104 cases of technology transfer and patent licensing with technology transfer earnings of NT$38.54 million and the founding of 11 new enterprises, directly resulting in additional investment of NT$1.2 billion by businesses.
The positive effect of the application of relevant scientific research to the development of industrial chains is not limited to primary industries, but has driven associated effects in society and the economy. It is estimated that the total value of the development of industries in Taiwan’s agricultural bioeconomy will be about NT$2 billion, more than twice the amount invested. Despite the fact that the Program for Promoting Agricultural Bioeconomy ended at the end of 2020, the results of relevant scientific research will continue to be applied in industries, and in addition some technologies for the value-added use of agricultural waste will continue to be applied by the COA in the next stage of the agricultural circular economy, thereby adding to the diversified benefits of agriculture, with expectations of reaching new milestones in the bioeconomy.