To celebrate its 60th Anniversary, the Faculty of Agriculture, Sam Ratulangi University, North Sulawesi, in collaboration with the International Coconut Community convened an international webinar with the theme “Coconut in Smart Agriculture”. More than 185 participants from the ICC member countries and other parts of the Globe from Asia, Australia, the Pacific, and Africa took part in the webinar.
Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw M. Sc. Ph.D., Executive Director, ICC, in her welcome speech, expressed her gratitude towards the Anniversary organizing committee for choosing coconut as the main topic of this webinar. She added that North Sulawesi Province, which is famously known as the “Province of Nyiur Melambai” (waving coconut trees), has prioritized coconut as the main program. The university's role in revealing the considerable potentials of coconut to the health aspect and environmental protection continues to grow in importance, as future demands for coconut-based products are increasing, and an intensive unjustifiable negative campaign of coconut and its products. She hoped that more innovative technologies and products will be generated from the Faculty of Agriculture and through the webinar participants could accelerate the exchange of technologies and ideas and scaling up good practices in the coconut sector.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Dr. Ir. Grevo. S. Gerung, M.Sc., Vice Rector of Academic Affairs, Sam Ratulangi University, addressed that in North Sulawesi Province coconut has become the main crop, contributing 60% of the non-oil and gas sector. The Coconut Research Unit in the University of Sam Ratulangi continues to study and develop the technology for developing nursery, cultivation practices, and post-harvesting in collaboration with the private sectors, supported by the local and national government. The university is ready to collaborate with any institutions at National and International level, because knowledge is universal, belonging to all the institutions. He hoped the knowledge and experience shared in the webinar would create insights for all participants.
As keynote speaker, Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw M. Sc. Ph.D., Executive Director, ICC, presented “Global Scenario of Coconut Sector during COVID-19 Pandemic” which addressed the present situation: contribution of coconut and its products; coconut in smart agriculture, precision agriculture (or smart farming) can significantly boost the agriculture production both in terms of productivity and sustainability, in align with 9 of the 17 SDGs; global production, price and market/export of coconut and its various products. She also presented the sustainability strategies. The outlook market for higher-value products is exceptionally positive, but low in the availability of raw material, so the strategies are innovative product development, diversification, quality including R&D expansion to face major challenges of coconut sector, including senility, pest/disease infestation, lack of investment in planting.
Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit, Professor Emeritus, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, and Chairman, ICC Scientific Advisory Committee on Health, presented “The Coconut: Treasure of the Tropics”, which covered three main issues: the coconut is the fruit of the tropics, the coconut as the tree of life and prosperity, and the Coconut against COVID-19, in which he explained the origin of coconut, history of coconut, coconut cultivation and derivative products as the tree of life and prosperity. He added the mechanism, how the VCO fights against the COVID-19 virus through its antiviral, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory activities. He enlighted the results from clinical studies on COVID-19 cases, proved that VCO is an affordable, readily available, and healthy functional food. He shared the strategies against COVID-19 and solidarity studies of VCO, further R&D of VCO.
Mrs.Deepthi Nair S, Deputy Director, Coconut Development Board, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, presented “Good Agriculture Practices in Coconut and Coconut Farmer Organizations in India”. Sustainable agriculture must ensure social progress, economic growth, and environmental protection. She also explored the good agricultural practices which included seed development, productivity enhancement, soil health, conserve natural resources, micro irrigation, crop protection, crop diversification, extension and transfer of technology, insurance and credit, and mechanization. She outlined the concept of Farmer Producers Organization successfully framed in India and their role in the sustainable development of the coconut sector.
Dr. Nguyen Quang Thien, Ph.D., Coconut Biotechnology, In Vitro Plant Cloning, School of Biotechnology, The International University, Vietnam National University presented “Coconut Cloning for Worldwide Replanting Urgency”. He focused on the health-conscious lifestyle, increasing market demand for coconut products, which is the driving force to the urgency. The possible solutions are rapid multiplication of varieties, through cultural tissue culture technology; embryo culture, haploid culture, somatic embryogenesis, and cryopreservation. Though there is still a challenge in the acclimatization. Automation by robot technology for subculture will reduce labor cost and time consumption for cloning.
Prof. Jimmy Botella, the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia presented “Lethal Yellowing Disease in Coconuts: A Diagnostic Tool, and the Potential of Satellite-based Surveillance”. He explained that monitoring was essential to control and eradicate the disease, involving surveillance to identify suspicious trees and confirmation to confirm/deny a disease. He introduced the use of drones and satellites to do the monitoring. He also introduced an innovative dipstick technology developed as a quick and straight forward tool for coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease (LYD) detection in the field and even the remote locations. The technology could extract DNA and RNA from living organisms is as little as 30 seconds without specialized equipment or personnel. The technology is trying in other crops like Cocoa and sugarcane besides coconut.
The last speaker, Dr. Joko Purbopuspito, Lecturer, Faculty Agriculture, Sam Ratulangi University, spoke on “Soil Management for Coconut Smart Agriculture ” and mentioned that sustainable development is a development that meets the present needs of this generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To achieve soil management for coconut smart agriculture, he introduced the acronym SMART: Specific - should follow climate and land/soils suitability’s criteria protocol; Measurable - manages to pay attention to details and specific coconut requirements; Achievable - acquires all necessities for coconut rejuvenation in an organic way of life; Relevant - revolves and involves all Stakeholders in five pillars to proceed for consolidating, connecting, integrating and modernizing the coconut system; Time-bound - timely target oriented on the circular economy and added benefits.
In his closing remarks Prof. Ir. Robert Molenaar, MS, Ph. D., Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, addressed that Indonesia has the largest coconut plantation in the world, but the productivity is only a half of India. It is our challenge to increase the production. Smart technology is available to overcome problems in a smart way. Implementation of the smart strategy is the solution, such as synergetic efforts of the international coconut stakeholders, also multi-stakeholders’ partnership where the Sam Ratulangi University and the ICC and many other institutions involved. He hoped that the webinar could function as the drive to facilitate the development and relationship to real collaboration, a constant exchange of information and technologies regarding issues of coconut farming and development.
There was an in-depth discussion on the topics, and the speakers addressed the queries. The webinar was moderated and chaired by Prof. Ir. Robert Molenaar, MS, Ph. D, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, Unsrat and Dr. Johny Tasirin, Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs and Cooperation, Faculty of Agriculture, Unsrat.