To Stay Ahead Of The Curve In Today’s Competitive Agricultural Biotechnology Market, Agricultural Heads Need To Be Aware About Back- To-Back Transformations. How Do You See The Changing Role Of A CTO In Agricultural Biotechnology Industry?
Agriculture today is dynamic. It is constantly changing with new environments, new technologies, and producing new results. With countries laying impetus on food security, amidst heightened demand from a burgeoning global population, agricultural biotechnology is expected to play a significant role in enhancing farm productivity and self sufficiency.
The global agricultural biotechnology market size is expected to reach $66.2 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 9.4 percent. This reflects the scope for competition and growth in this segment. A major purpose of biotechnology in agriculture is to ferry it into the modern age, while offering scientific tools and solutions to farmers to increase yield and productivity, and ward off potential natural risks. Accordingly, the role of a Chief Technology Officer at an agricultural biotechnology business is evolving in terms of the changing approaches to agriculture, addressing challenges with solutions, and adding direction and strategy to the path of modernization through innovation.
ACTO must implement upgraded knowledge as required, quickly adapting to the changing needs and knowledge of farmers, land-related factors, and market situations. Considering that the sector is surrounded by significant government regulation, coupled with a lack of awareness, a CTO also contributes to the spread of knowledge on the field, while dispelling misinformation. Science is at the heart of agricultural biotechnology. Hence, to maintain a competitive edge, a CTO must be oriented towards optimally utilizing R&D infused with new and relevant technologies to create products suited to a particular market and involve farmers in their introduction and usage.
One Of The Major Concerns For The CTOs In The Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Is The Higher Costs For The Development Of Agri Biotech Products. How Do You Propose To Allay These Concerns?
The High costs of agri biotech products remains a concern, as it is one of the hindrance for the development. Apart from the costs incurred in research and the development of a product itself, the time spent on its approval also translates into high cost for a company. However, where high cost is an impediment, it is also an opportunity for innovating processes, making them more cost-effective, ultimately benefiting for farmers.
Gene editing is one such innovation that has become an integral part of the tool box for agri biotech companies. It is affordable and takes less time. Globally, it is subject to much lower level of regulation in comparison to the transgenic technology. In fact, many of the recent age innovations in the US have come out of startup companies, demonstrating its affordability. Today, companies are bullish about digitalization, which ensures timeliness, precision and ac- curacy of processes. It is such an intrinsic pressure that has led to novel technologies like gene editing which are more affordable and involve lesser regulatory oversight. Data analytics is pushing efficiency, quality and safety.
The incorporation of automation, IoT, and other digital tools across the value chain, helps improve employee experience, reduce cycle time and increases learning and development capabilities. Internet penetration has enabled companies to connect with customers, including farmers in remote villages. Taking operations closer to the customers brings down logistical costs. Alongside digitalization, R&D geared towards developing cost-effective processes, regular launch of new products to address portfolio gaps, and affordable scale up of development will also help reduce costs.
Agricultural biotechnology, through its solutions, can help the sector economically in the long run. The resistance it can offer to crops against pests, diseases, etc., while enabling their growth against varying conditions and in a more timely way, will result in steady yield. Biotechnology provides farmers the tools that can make cultivation cheaper and manageable, while keeping pace with demand for food. This demand-supply cycle would ultimately lead to cost-effective development of agri biotech products.
Fluctuating Costs Of The Raw Materials, Lack Of Awareness Among The Small-Scale Livestock Growers And Lack In Required Infrastructure Facilities Is Hampering The Market Of Agricultural Biotechnology. How Can This Challenge Be Addressed?
For a company actively pursuing a vision for agricultural biotechnology, having an approach led by R&D and innovation to address various challenges must be a priority. Globally, biotechnology is helping the livestock industry hasten breed development for improved animal health, enhanced reproduction, and better nutritional quality and safety of animal-derived food products.
In India, however, many marginal livestock farmers are yet to implement biotechnology into their practices. Considering that farmers are integral to the industry, making them aware of the same is necessary. Hence, one must look at building trusting relationships with stakeholders, including farmers, to deliver on the goal of creating and sharing prosperity across the value chain. Frequent awareness drives, preseason meetings, sales meetings, and product development trials must be held to increase connect with the farming community.
Meanwhile, in order to handle fluctuating raw material costs, one may look at up-stocking of raw materials or develop alternative methods that create greater choice of raw materials to tackle supply and price volatility. In terms of improving infrastructure, suitable investments could be allocated towards setting up and updating R&D labs and manufacturing facilities.
Increment In The Production And Breeding In Transgenic Crops Owing To The Rising Demand For Food. What Are The Other Important Factors That Are Bolstering The Demand And Application Of Agricultural Biotechnology?
Food demand is a major factor driving agricultural biotechnology, including the production and breeding of transgenic crops. However, agricultural biotechnology is also influenced by a future of sustainability. Amidst questions surrounding the efficacy of biotechnology in agriculture, it is important to note that it can contribute to sustainable farming. Awareness and reasoning in recent times, backed by the zeal to find scientific and long-lasting methods to conserve soil fertility, increase crop yield and quality, and reduce any potential pollution from agriculture and related industries has prompted research in biotechnology to discover solutions for the same.
Accordingly, agricultural biotechnology has led to increased resistance against biotic stresses (pests and diseases), resistance against a biotic stresses such as drought, cold, flooding, and problem soils, bio remediation of polluted soils and bio-detectors for monitoring pollution, improved technologies for generating biomass-derived energy, and generated high nutrient levels in staple crops, among others. These findings are a boon for the agricultural economy of a country in the long run. This long-term approach has led to demand and application of this science.
Integrating Technological Advancements For Better Cultivation Practices And Increasing Demand For Agricultural Equipment Is One Of The Most Daunting Tasks For Ctos. What Should Be Done To Streamline The Integration Process?
There are challenges that need to be addressed while integrating modernization into agriculture, since it is still considered a time-honoured, traditional occupation. However, more recently, digitization and data, as well as collaboration of the farming community with researchers across the private and public sectors, have introduced modern practices, in the form of better equipment, seeds, irrigation techniques, fertilizers and pesticides. Beginning with tractors, new tillage and harvesting equipment, and air seeding technology, have all led to higher yield and crop quality.
Efficiency will be a focus area for the future of modern agriculture. In order to achieve efficiency, strides made in other areas could be implemented to boost agriculture too. Technologies such as autonomous vehicles, AI, and IoT could be developed specifically for agriculture, benefitting farmers with real-time information on weather and disaster warnings and control over their practices. And companies have already starting doing this in developing economies including India. Today's smartphone penetration and apps have brought India's hinterland into the mainstream, enabling rural] farmers to be aware of the latest developments in their field. On the other hand, CTOs from companies may also tap this trend to understand the needs of farmers from across different geographies and markets, and steer their research and innovation to evolve solutions and products accordingly. Hence, internet penetration and digitization will enable streamlining of the integration process. Government policies are also contributing towards promoting modernization among agriculturists.
Agricultural Biotechnology Has To Comply With A Variety Of Government And Industry Regulations. How Can The Process Be Made More Efficient With Constant Innovations?
Agricultural biotechnology is governed by very strict regulation the world over to ensure safety of the products when they are approved for use. Advocacy is necessary to make the technology properly understood and accepted. As a ray of hope recently, the Indian Government has brought in some key reforms to boost the sector, which is likely to attract the necessary technological interventions to improve productivity and quality of produce, thus benefiting farmers and the entire value chain.
As a shot in the arm for the sector, the government recently issued orders exempting certain gene-edited plants from stringent bio safety regulations. The move exempts SDN 1 and SDN two varieties of plants from a set of regulations currently imposed on the commercialization of genetically-modified transgenic crops, and regulators would instead rely on the Institutional Bio safety Committee to certify that the gene- edited crop is devoid of any foreign DNA. SDN 1 and SDN two processes do not involve any foreign genetic material, with the result being similar to conventionally-bred crop varieties.
This exemption is a tremendous opportunity for innovation, leading to lower GE development costs, and companies will be able to deliver solutions at short notice. Meanwhile, products from the agri biotech industry continue to be regulated according to their intended use. With easing of some restrictions, compliance with the same will become a simpler process. The sector can accordingly plan products with desired results, with enough room for further innovation.
Expedited approvals for vaccines, use of technologies like the cowin app to support vaccination efforts, collaboration between Government ministries and private sector players have helped India deal with the COVID pandemic relatively better than most unfortunate countries. The prime factor for all this was thoughtful leadership. Once the dedicated and committed leadership is demonstrated, everything falls in place. We seek similar leadership to set the agenda to avoid future crises in food shortage, fibre shortage etc. in the country and make India a shining beacon for sustainable progress through Ag technology adoption.
How Do You See The Future Of Agricultural Biotechnology With Regard To Adoption Of New Trends And Technologies?
The world today is conscious about issues like climate change and environment protection. Sustainability and innovation will be guiding principles for any economic activity, including agriculture, in the coming years. Accordingly, agricultural biotechnology is expected to lay more emphasis on sustainability in farming by offering suitable innovations. Innovation is a major tool in overcoming challenges in agriculture at a global level. R&D and innovative approaches such as molecular breeding, genomic prediction and gene editing are some examples of the next-generation tools that will pave the way in improving productivity, efficacy, and social, economic and environmental impact of the agrifood sector.
The role of a Chief Technology Officer at an agricultural biotechnology business is evolving in terms of the changing approaches to agriculture, addressing challenges with solutions, and adding direction and strategy to the path of modernization through innovation
Dr. Ramanathan Vairamani, Chief - Technology & Innovation, Rallis India
Agricultural biotechnology today is replete with new innovations, developments and breakthroughs for a host of requirements. Interventions such as marker-assisted breeding and CRISPR, are expected to address problems, including food shortage and disease. Further, AI, analytics, connected sensors, and other emerging technologies could help increase yields, improve efficiency of water and other inputs, and build sustainability and resilience across crop cultivation and animal husbandry.
However, successful adoption of agricultural biotechnology will eventually depend on farmers. Solutions and innovations must thus be developed suiting their needs. The sector is constantly evolving, influenced by changing customer needs and other natural factors. With favourable government policies, agricultural biotechnology can hope for an exciting, sustainable future.