You like potato?Potato high-tech travels to Yemen [Archives:2003/639/Health]

June 5 2003
Men behind the project: (from left) Mr. Choi,  Mr. Al-Hadha, and Dr. Chung
Men behind the project: (from left) Mr. Choi, Mr. Al-Hadha, and Dr. Chung
Tiny hi-tech Potato seeds held by an eye glass
Tiny hi-tech Potato seeds held by an eye glass
Fahmia Al-Fotih

Biotechnology is generally defined as the use of biological processes as a component in the development or manufacture of a product, or in the technological solution to a problem. And it is a broad term for many industry circles such fields as food and agriculture, genetics, pharmaceuticals and other environmental sciences. We have recently seen its remarkable progresses in the agricultural industry of Yemen, transplanted from Korea. It has been launched on potato farming. Dr.Hyouk Joung in Korea, Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology had pioneered biotechnology in the field of seed potato production since 1989. Thanks to his endeavored research works, the private sectors and government authority had exerted all their strength to achieve higher standard of the concerned technology. It can be referred to the case of CR Biotec Co., Ltd (Kyung Ho Chung Ph.D.!) and Korea Alpine Agricultural Experimental Station (Sung Yeol Kim Ph.D.)

Potato seeds
It explains that the biotechnology of a tissue culture method for rapid multiplication of pathogen-free nuclear seed stock (called minitubers) for the seed potato industry is a revolutionary technology. Without the need to genetically alter a potato variety, it lessens from 5 to 7 years of the seed multiplication process and provides greater quantities of high quality of seed potato than any production system introduced to the world today.
From Korea Tamjin Hong-Seob Choi came to Yemen with several dreams and ambitions to adapt new seed potato technology to Yemen. It dates back to 1998. Being alone had not prevented him to go on in his project and displayed it to the interested bodies. He had consulted the message with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and interested associations in Yemen. It could lead to a chance to make experimental farming in many areas, especially owes to Amran Agricultural Cooperative Society since 2001, which built good lessons and encouraged him to go ahead.

Potato Project in Yemen
Al-Hadha Group, represents in Mr. Qassim H. AL-Hadha, Deputy Managing Director and a Member of Parliament of the Republic of Yemen, has initiated the “Potato Project”, holding Mr.Choi's hands as a project consultant since the year of 2001. Thus, after 5 years from the message issue to Yemen society, exactly from September 1998 through the advertisement in Yemen Times, Mr .Choi brought a new stage of Memorandum Of Understanding that has been signed between Al Hadha Group and CR Biotec Co., Ltd, Korea on May 04, 2003.
CR Biotec Co., Ltd, represents in Kyung Ho Chung, C.E.O. Ph.D., a young venture company in Korea, plays a main role for bringing this biotechnology to Yemen. Encouraged by geographic and climatic condition of Yemen Dr.Chung has monitored the field works, mainly executed by Al Hadha Group, for the adaptation of its seed potato technology since August 2001. Those joint works in Yemen, no doubt, after going through lots of ups and downs, motivated himself to make the formal presentation and commercialization concerning controlled production system of higher productivity of seed potato in Yemen.
The MOU purposes organizing a renewable production system of seed potato in Yemen, establishing a production site for exports of seed potatoes to world markets and expanding biotechnology to the wider scopes of cash crops such as strawberry, date palm tree and other commercial fields of horticulture. According to its implementation schedule, it can be expected to see an updated tissue culture laboratory in Yemen on May 2004. This project covers 100,000,000pcs of seed potato production to print commercial turnover of US$5,000,000 yearly.

For exportation
This project aims export policy of seed potato to overseas markets as well reciprocal supports for Yemeni farmers to encourage them to market their yields to neighboring countries. It has been believed that favorable natural circumstances of Yemen can make “Seed Potato, Made In Yemen” position in the world market sooner. Especially processing potato exports to the factories in U.A.E. and Saudi are being scheduled through the cooperative works with Dhamar Ali Agricultural Society.
Mr. Choi says, “I had never dreamed to come to Yemen. It happened to have a chance to visit Yemen in the end of 1997. When I had traveled lots of local areas and cities, I could foresee that agriculture industry here in Yemen should be one of leading filed for the development of Yemeni society in near future. But in actual fields, even still, I dare to say there was no eye-grasping progress and infrastructure. So I told to myself that this should be something to challenge. That's why I had initiated my project; completely single game by myself in the beginning. Then I have owed too much to Ministry of Agriculture & Irrigation, Agricultural Cooperative Union and its affiliated societies, my close friend of Ahmed A. Bamaas, personal strong hands from Qassim H. Al Hadha and Al Hadha Group as well l! lots of support from Korean friends. I am surer of the firm achievement of applying potato hi-tech for the development of Yemeni agricultural industry.”

Technology adopted
The technology can be summarized in three categories;
Firstly, it can be mentioned that it has a very short leading time of about 70days for one cycle of seed potato production, just as they say “Plants grow more quickly, People work more effectively.”
Secondly, it shows high productivity of about 5,000pcs per 24 square meter for the production of so-called BioSpud, a seed potato of pre-nuclear quality being produced from potato shoots obtained by meristem tissue culture methods, and then those can be multiplied by using a specific agricultural device which makes about 800,000pcs planting per hectare, remarkable figures compared with traditional ones of about 90,000 pcs per hectare.
It explains about 4,000,000pcs, hard to believe but to the truth, of seed potato yields per hectare. Further the size of seed potato comes between 5gr to 15gr per piece that brings big applauses from farmers, definitely taking in account the storage, transportation, and planting.
Thirdly, higher productivity of potatoes from the field can be pointed out. The data from the experimental farming in areas of Amran, Marib, Al Jawuf, Hadramout and Dhamar shows the feasibility to gain about 40 tones per hectare while locale yields shows not exceeding 20metric. The Agricultural Statistics Yearbook 2000, by General Department of Statistics, Yemen, says that the farming area for potatoes reach 17,000 hectares to yield 210,424 tones. In figures, we find it has the productivity of 12.38 tones per hectare in Yemen.
It is noted that the tissue culture technology for seed potato production can be expanded to other sectors like strawberry, date palms, and horticulture industry.
Tamjin further explains “We can see the local strawberry farming is at poor stage even very favorable climate condition and high potentiality to make strawberry farming cash crop in hand. I have seen that there are many attempts in this field but they are still in papers not in actual works as they face problems of bringing updated tissue culture technology. All these things can be devised once we establish our laboratory and its related farming facilities. Designed collective farmland for strawberry production can be seen soonest here in Yemen. In fact, there has been substantial development of joint works with a Korean company and Yemeni partner for this purpose. Our seed potato project and technology is backing up those new trends for the development of agriculture industry between Yemen and Korea,! and it can applies to other crops according to our implementation schedule.”
Mr.Choi concluded, “We would not seize the technology to ourselves… We aim by our project to make much for the solution of world food problems as well as industrialize the mass production technology of high quality seed potatoes. We goal also to differentiate commercialization of seed potato with innovative, cost-effective and advanced biotechnology and orienting progressive co-share of the technology for the countries in need. should benefit farmers.”