Leveraging the International Rice Genebank collection for a food-secure future
LOS BANOS, LAGUNA, PHILIPPINES (Sept. 12, 2023) – The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is receiving 2 million USD in grant funding from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to harness the power of Artificial intelligence (AI) towards fast-tracking the development and deployment of high-yielding, climate-resilient rice varieties to sustain and increase rice production in the face of climate change.
Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has set up this competitive grant to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Through this grant, the researchers from IRRI’s Fit-for-Future Genetic Resources unit that steward the International Rice Genebank (IRG) aim to apply a combination of AI and high-throughput phenotyping methodologies to assess the IRG rice collection’s tolerance to abiotic stresses such as flooding, drought, and salinity – making a laborious, costly, and time-consuming process more efficient. This will also promote the enhanced utilization of the genebank’s resources.
“IRRI’s genebank is the world’s largest rice gene bank and holds, in trust, over 132,000 varieties originating from 132 countries. This rich resource is used for breeding to develop new and better rice varieties. At present, only five percent of this resource is used due to limited information on its collections, as we lack appropriate, cost-effective, and high-throughput phenotyping methodologies. AI will undoubtedly unlock the genebank’s full potential in helping address these critical food security challenges,” said IRG Head, Dr. Venuprasad Ramaiah.
Google.org’s AI for the Global Goals Impact Challenge is part of Google’s company-wide commitment to help accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. IRRI is one of 15 organizations receiving support through the $25 million philanthropy challenge for projects that use AI to accelerate progress towards these goals. Out of many submitted proposals, 15 were selected for funding. Importantly, all of the projects will be open-sourced so other organizations can build upon the work.
“Each of the 15 selected organizations share our vision for using AI to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and each organization brings their own expertise to help move the needle,” said James Manyika, Google’s SVP of Research, Technology & Society. “We are inspired by the possibilities they see for how AI can be harnessed to help people solve societal problems, and are excited about the collective impact they will have over the next three years.”
Based on projections, the IRRI team foresees economic returns of at least 30 billion USD from the project’s implementation after five years from release. The project also presents an opportunity for the capacity strengthening of national research institutions’ staff, which will bring further long term benefits.
“The project is expected to bring a significant impact on food security and biodiversity conservation while promoting social, nutritional, gender, equity, and entrepreneurship benefits, and building the resilience of rice-growing and consuming countries to climate change. We thank Google for their support in this meaningful initiative,” said IRRI Interim Director General, Dr. Ajay Kohli.
Read more on Google.org’s AI for the Global Goals Impact Challenge here.