The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is leading a new initiative called Network for Accelerated Rice Varieties for Impact, or NARVI, that will engage in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) with local, regional, and international private sector companies around the world to expand and hasten the development, dissemination, and promotion of high-quality and improved rice varieties to smallholder farmers.
Initiated by IRRI and launched in 2020-2021, NARVI is a new membership-based network specifically for the private sector, modelled upon previous public-sector sharing and evaluation networks such as the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) and ASEAN RIceNet. Private companies and organizations that join the NARVI network will gain advance but non-exclusive access to a pipeline of pre-commercial new elite rice advanced lines developed and owned by IRRI. Each year, NARVI members will receive up to three (3) trial kits comprised of 20 elite inbred lines with the traits of their choosing, such as increased yield, resistance to disease, tolerance to abiotic stress, etc. (subject to availability). They can use these kits for NARVI-shared field trials, evaluation, research, and their own breeding programs, with the goal of fast-tracking the development and licensing of high-value commercial rice varieties suitable for their own markets.
NARVI will provide access to a pipeline of new elite rice advanced lines (Plant Genetic Resource for Agriculture - Under Development, (PGRFA-UD, FAO, http://www.fao.org/plant-treaty/en) developed and owned by IRRI in a non-exclusive manner, for evaluation by the private partners in the field, conduct research, and select lines to release as commercial varieties. IRRI promotes responsible technology transfer in accordance with its Intellectual Property and Commercialization Policy (IP&C Policy) and with the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets (“IA Principles”).
“Through the NARVI consortium, we will be able to harness the private sector’s reach and resources to contribute to the shared advancement of research and development of elite rice lines across the globe,” said Dr. Shoba Venkatanagappa, IRRI Senior Scientist and Head of the NARVI initiative. “In addition, through the licensing, distribution, and marketing of high-value varieties in their specific countries and territories, private companies can also augment government and public sector efforts to increase the speed, scale, and scope of dissemination of diverse and specialized varieties, allowing smallholder farmers to have more choices suitable to their needs and requirements.”
The objectives of the NARVI initiative are as follows:
- Accelerate positive impact on smallholder farmers with IRRI’s elite germplasm by engaging with private sector partners through Private Public Participation (PPP) in a non-exclusive manner.
- Support private sector partners by providing advanced IRRI-developed rice germplasm for evaluation within the country of agreement and select best performing lines and disseminate new elite rice varieties for the benefit of rice farmers and consumers.
- Provide necessary freedom to private sector partners who are NARVI members to utilize IRRI advanced lines for further breeding and development of new “Derived Materials”. This will increase the diversity of the rice breeding lines and further increase the choices to farmers.
- Provide support to the private sector similar to the public sector by providing standardized data collection, collation, and best practices in analysis to enable the advancement of the best lines for varietal dissemination based on the data collected by the private sector partners.
NARVI will provide additional channels through private sector for farmers across the globe to enhance rice production in many rice-producing countries already facing various challenges, such as intensifying biotic and abiotic stresses due to climate change, degradation and competition for natural resources like land and water, and increased costs in rice cultivation combined with declining returns. Access to high-quality seeds of improved varieties will support to address challenges significantly and disproportionately impacting smallholder rice farmers, who make up the majority of rice production globally and whose livelihoods are especially vulnerable to these types of shocks. NARVI will help also farmers thus far unreached or reached in a limited manner such as women and young farmers.
For over 60 years, IRRI has been continuously breeding and developing new and improved rice varieties that offer a variety of advantages for farmers and consumers, including increased yields per hectare, better-tasting and more healthy grains that fetch higher market prices, enhanced resistance to pests and diseases, improved tolerances to droughts, floods, salinity, and extreme temperatures, and reduced requirements for inputs like water and fertilizer, through public sector networks as mentioned above. The NARVI initiative does not in any way restrict the current flow of germplasm and information exchange through existing channels, including NARES partners. Public-funded institutions will continue to receive PGRFA lines through various ongoing programs and consortia of IRRI, without any payment requirement, although the cost of all evaluations is to be borne by these organizations and IRRI.