Upland Seed Film Cultivation (SFC)
Rice direct sowing using seed-attached biodegradable films in the upland rainfed ecosystem to adapt climate change
Pitch us on your solution
Globally, rice consumes more than 30% of freshwater and emits about 2% of the global greenhouse gases, most of which is methane produced when organic matter is decomposed in water. The main reason for this problem is that rice must be grown in water.
However RICE IS NOT AN AQUATIC PLANT, it is just water-intensive. If rice grows outside the water, most populous aerobic weeds dominate the field. Rice can hardly grow due to competition with weeds. Thus, rice got to grow in water, and rice farming has flourished in water-rich river basins and coastal deltas.
By the way, these lowland areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding and rising sea-level. Bangladesh became the fifth largest rice importer in the world due to flooding in 2017.
To make rice production sustainable even in the worsening climate change, rice should be grown outside the water while controlling weeds with a biodegradable film.
Film your elevator pitch
What is the problem you are solving?
- Excessive water waste of rice farming
Cultivated rice is considered a semi-aquatic annual grass (Rice Almanac 4th ed.2013). But for weeding, humans rely on Continuous Flood Irrigation (CFI) practice, which requires irrigation of 100 cm of water. However, according to a recent study, Bhone Nay-Htoon 2016, rice uses only about 10 cm out of the irrigation water for transpiration, so about 90% may be wasted including evaporation and percolation.
- Greenhouse gases caused by rice farming
With CFI, anaerobic decomposition of organic matters emits methane(CH4) with a global warming potential of 28. According to IPCC’s 5th assessment report, rice cultivation accounts for 1.5 – 2.3 % of global greenhouse gases, most of which are methane.
- Ganges Brahma Putra Delta extremely vulnerable to sea level rise
By 2050, sea-level rises by 50 centimeters will submerge about 11% of Bangladesh's land, a significant portion of which is rice paddies. Flooding in 2017 made Bangladesh a temporary rice importer, but rising sea levels are likely to threaten food security forever in the near future. No country in the world is more vulnerable to climate change than Bangladesh. Among them, rice farming is the most vulnerable.
Who are you serving?
Based on the FAO data below, the yield is lowest in the upland rainfed ecosystem. The reason for this is that besides the difficulty of controlling weeds, there is no paddy levees, so that soil nutrients are washed away by rainwater. All other ecosystems are near the river basins or within 1 meter above sea level, which exposes to the risk of flooding and rising sea levels.
The starting point for adapting Bangladeshi rice farming to climate change is the upland rainfed ecosystem with the lowest yield. If the yield here increases from the current 1.45 tons to more than 6 tons, Bangladesh can produce more than 4 million tons of rice. Mulching biodegradable films to grow rice outside of water can help roots proliferate better and increase yields than when growing in water.
Poor farmers who had to produce less than two tons of rice in the upland rainfed ecosystem would be rich and the farming practice would spread rapidly with farmers' voluntary participation. This technology will ultimately improve national food security, which will benefit not only upland rainfed rice farmers but also Bangladeshi people.
What is your solution?
Term definitions; Seed Film is a seed-attached biodegradable film. Seed Film Cultivation (SFC) is rice farming using Seed Film. Our solution Upland SFC represents SFC in the upland rainfed ecosystem.
- Seed-attacher attaches rice seeds to biodegradable films to make the Seed Films. [ Seed-attacher's Video ]
- Mulcher spreads the Seed Film on dry fields and covers them with soil. [ Mulcher's Video ]
- Biodegradable film will be 90% decomposed for 180 days and completely disappears with 100% water and CO2. Raw materials are mainly PLA (Polylactic acid), PBAT (Polybutylene adipate terephthalate) and TPS (Thermoplastic starch) are added to supplement the properties of PLA. ※Plenty of room for improvement
- Eco-friendly adhesives without volatile organic compounds are necessary.
- Cultivars for Upland SFC recommends choosing the best varieties used in irrigation rice farming. Biodegradable-film-mulched-environment gives the seeds sufficient saturated moisture.
- Growing season and Irrigation; Seed Film is recommended to be mulched at minimum temperatures above 15℃. In addition, sufficient watering is essential. During Season 1, about 300 mm of rain per month in Bangladesh is enough to grow rice. Season 2 requires drip-irrigation, which costs an additional $250/ha, which is also cost-effective due to the high yield.
- A $ 120,000 Seed-attacher replaceing irrigation dams and waterways
Under the upland rainfed ecosystems, irrigated rice farming for high yields of over 6tons/ha requires expensive irrigation facilities. Upland SFC makes them unnecessary.
Attachment speed; 14 ha/day (24 hours), 400 ha/month, 2,000 ha/year for 5 months
- $ 600 biodegradable film per hectare
SFC inputs the high-price biodegradable films and satisfies the economic feasibility with much higher output.
The break-even yields for Upland SFC is 6 tons per hectare in Bangladesh given that the price of paddy rice is more than 1000 Taka per maund (37.2kg) or more than $ 300 per ton.
3. Expected increased cost-effectiveness due to worsening climate change
Recent studies including Jinyang Wang et al.(2012), Peischl et al.(2012), Farag et al.(2013) show that methane produced in paddy fields is about 350-400 kg/ha, or about 10TonsCO2eq/ha, given global warming potential 28 of methane. On the other hand, the carbon emissions of the biodegradable film does not exceed 200kgCO2eq/ha and Upland SFC growing rice outside the water is expected to reduce methane to nearly zero.
This means that Upland SFC farmers have are entitle to compensation up to $750/ha ($75/tonCO2eq x 10tonCO2eq/ha) from the international community, based on recent claims by the International Monetary Fund.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Namyangju-si, 경기도 대한민국
In which sector would you categorize your solution?
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
SFC is a convergent technology to grow rice outside the water in combination with biodegradable film and mechanical engineering. However, each of the biodegradable film raw materials has already been commonly used in other industries. In addition, the Seed-attacher and the Mulcher we invented are not very high technologies. But, converging them into precision agriculture enables cost-effective, water-saving, zero-methane, and labor-saving rice farming in the upland rainfed ecosystem.
Two of the innovative properties of SFC have made this amazing achievement possible. However, to be honest, it's just a naturally acquired discovery, not the result of our intended invention.
1. Seedbed spontaneously formed
Seedbed is essential for good seedlings establishment. Direct sowing is not supposed to have seedbeds. SFC is also a direct sowing, but in itself forms seedbeds with the farming practice and biodegradable films. In addition to suppress weeds, biodegradable films protects moisture, warmth, and fertilizers, providing the best environment for growing rice. These spontaneously formed seedbeds maximize the number of effective tillers and panicle lengths, resulting in a high yield of over 6 tons of rice in the upland rainfed ecosystem where it was difficult to produce 2 tons previously.
2. Shorter growth period
Upland SFC reduces the growth period by about 20%, compared to the normal rice direct sowing method. This is presumably because the temperature rises higher because the heat of vaporization is suppressed by the film mulching, and the temperature drops less at night because the rice fields are not filled with water.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
2019 Chinese Newspapers articles on SFC in the former wheat fields / 33 ha (83 acres, 500 mu)
Our own track records
Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
- 2017; one farmer family for proof of concept
Photo records of former cornfields in Hebei, China / 0.1 hectare; http://seedfilm.co.kr/en/case/2017-china/
- 2018-2019; 50 farmer's family for the pilot project
- After 2020; can be tens of thousands
With China's rapid economic development, the gap between the rich and poor has become one of the serious social problems. The most common of these poor people are small scale wheat/corn farmers.
China imports wheat, corn, as well as rice every year. From a food security point of view, rice production in corn/wheat fields may not be of much help to China. However, if rice can be grown in there, farmers' incomes will nearly double. This is why Upland SFC developed in Korea is first introduced in China.
After watching farmers' spontaneous rice farming in wheat/cornfields for three years, many Chinese local governments regard SFC as one of the tools of the Poverty Alleviation Campaign and plan to spread it in earnest from 2020. From 2020, the Upland SFC will spread to the voluntary will of Chinese local governments and farmers. It is expected that there will be thousands and tens of thousands of farmers who benefit from this.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
We want to replace conventional irrigated rice farming around the world with SFC, climate-smart rice farming. The beginning is Bangladesh.
During the first year, we will demonstrate the effectiveness of Upland SFC in Bangladesh. To this end, we plan to obtain official data on SFC from evaluation projects with authoritative research institutes.
And from next year we plan to disseminate Upland SFC to Bangladesh upland rainfed ecosystem. In addtion, we plan to support Bangladesh production of key technical components.
SFC is a convergence of technologies with biodegradable films, eco-friendly adhesives, Seed-attachers, Mulchers, and precision agriculture. Domestic production of biodegradable films and Mulchers is urgent for nationwide expansion. Assuming about 1 million ha of upland rainfed rice fields are converted to Upland SFC, about 500 Seed-attachers are needed. Thus Seed-attacher must also be produced in local under manufacturing license agreement.
There should also be a thorough training for farmers. Upland SFC is a precision agriculture and it's important to comply with the farming practice. The most common failure often occurs when Seed Film is mulched in waterlogged paddy fields.
And the failure with expensive materials causes economic losses that are difficult for farmers to recover for quite some time. SFC is not difficult. However, because they are not familiar, thorough education/training and local consulting are essential. To this end, cooperation with local agricultural education institutions should be preceded.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The most urgent is to secure official data on SFC.
These photos were taken in a rice field at the foot of the mountain in Korea and the person in the photo is me, CEO Sung-jin Choe.
Are these pictures sufficient to drive global climate change and national food security policies? Absolutely not.
In place of irrigated rice farming, which has been lasted for centuries, in which countries can choose SFC by only these pictures? The key barrier is that we yet to have official data on SFC. The questions of everyone interested in SFC were the same. “How much SFC saves water and mitigate methane, and what the yield and costs are?”
To prepare for worsening climate change and water shortages, evaluation projects on SFC along with authoritative institutions are urgent.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
First and foremost, we want to secure official data with authoritative institutions around the world under the Bangladesh upland rainfed ecosystem.
In addition, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) has decided a joint research on Upland SFC since 2020. As corn prices plummeted in 2016, Chinese corn producers wanted to grow rice in cornfields. Since 2017, SFC with drip irrigation has been successfully growing rice in corn/wheat fields in Hebei, China. Watching these results, CAAS decided to begin joint research.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Bangladesh?
Rice farming should be both a national food security policy and a means of livelihood for the farmers' families. In particular, the upland rainfed rice farmers are mostly subsistence farmers. Considering these aspects, we devised the Seed Film Loan as our expansion plan, while making a profit.
It is virtually impossible for subsistence farmers to grow rice using $120,000 Seed-attacher without someone's help. So, a micro-financing program named Seed Film Loan is devised to make it easy for the farmers to participate in Upland SFC. A Seed-attacher can produce 2000 hectares of Seed-Film a year and must run 24 hours a day at a plant where stable electricity can be supplied. This is the role of the Seed Film Bank.
The Bank manufactures Seed Films, lends the films and fertilizers to small farmers, and lets the farmers grow rice to produce more than 6 tons there. Then the farmers pay for them with 3 tons of paddy rice after harvest. This method is repeated and expanded continuously in a cyclic manner. In this way, farmers will make profits and expand rice farming.
We will establish these Banks in cooperation with local businesses, farmers' organizations, nonprofits, etc. The bank will be established in about 2000 ha units and expand nationwide.
Select an option below:For-profit
How many people work on your solution team?
5 people (family members)
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
3 years for Upland SFC
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
CEO Sung-jin Choe
2015 Korea National Railroad College dropout
2017 Grand prize of 3rd Innovation Festa in Korea
2018 MIT-SOLVER (https://solve.mit.edu/challenges/coastal-communities/solutions/4182)
2019.03.03 Green and Seed Corp. Founded (Initial Capital $ 42,000)
Specialty: Machine manufacturing using CAD / CAM; Rice farming
Chief Agriculture Officer Young-hoon Choe
Former Researcher at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Specialty: Rice farming; Bio-degradable films
Since 2012, CEO's family have been growing eco-friendly rice without herbicides using seed-attached biodegradable films in the rice paddies.
To this end, Seed-attacher was invented with the Patent: US 9,386,737B2 (BIODEGRADING MULCHING FILM SEED ATTACHMENT AUTOMATING DEVICE HAVING CUTTING OPEN AND ADHESIVE COATING MEANS, AND SEED ATTACHMENT METHOD USING SAID DEVICE)
In 2015, CEO Sung-jin Choe was discharged from the military and helped
the family farm. At this time, they thought the rice was an aquatic plant, so
the Seed Film was spread out on waterlogged paddies.
But he happened to realize that RICE IS NOT AN AQUATIC PLANT from the Rice Almanac 4th ed. (2013). Since then his family have been growing rice in wheat/corn-fields and foothills without water.
2018, Seed Film was spread on a mountain slope. For irrigation, a 1-inch drip tape was inserted under the 1.8M wide Seed Film.
As the same farmer, we are ready to share this technology with farmers all over the world, including Bangladeshi farmers.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) SOLVE
CEO Sung-jin Choe was selected MIT SOLVER 2018 at MIT-Solve's Coastal Community Challenge last year in New York.
- Crop and Ecology group at Institute of Crop Sciences / Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
The group is a research organization on rice farming and climate change in China, and plans a joint study on SFC since 2020.
- K-water (The Korea Water Resources Corporation)
K-water is the governmental agency for comprehensive water resource development and providing both public and industrial water in South Korea. In October 2019, Green and Seed Corp was selected as the 7th cooperative startup of K-water.
- Eland Group in Korea
E-Land Group has long been famous for donating money to underdeveloped countries as a large Christian clothing company in Korea, donated $ 100,000 to us in March 2019 to support rice production in Chat, Africa.
- Korea Africa Foundation (KAF)
KAF was founded as an affiliate of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In September, Upland SFC was named KAF's solution. And KAF will announce the solution on November 19 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
What is your business model?
- Business Canvas Model Report of Green and Seed Corporation
Cost-effective rice cultivation solution that provides high yield, water-saving, low emissions, and labor-saving in the upland rainfed where there is no irrigation except rainwater. This solution is called Seed Film Cultivation (SFC).
- Farmers who grow rice in the upland rainfed
- Countries that have a lot of arable farmland but have to import rice due to lack of irrigation system.
- Farmers’ Cooperatives
- Contests and Exhibitions
- Training of SFC
- Continuous supply of biodegradable film and materials
- Maintenance of the Seed-attacher
- Joint operation of Seed Film Bank
- Sales of Seed-attachers and Mulchers (one-off) and Biodegradable films and materials (recursive)
- Maintenance fee of Seed-attachers
- Operation fee of Seed Film Bank
- Royalty fee
- Technology of mf’g machinery and biodegradable Film
- Precision Rice Farming
- Intellectual property
- Rice producing Government
- Rice Research Institute
- Farmers’ Cooperatives
- Donors(ODA Funders) & Nonprofits
- Machinery Companies in local
- Film & Glue manufacturers in local
- Evaluation of official data on SFC with prestigious research institutes
- Proof-of-Concept farming in each region for dissemination
- Operation of Seed Film Bank
- Costs for Evaluation of official data on SFC
- Costs for Proof-of-Concept for each region Costs for the Operation of Seed Film Bank
What is your path to financial sustainability?
- Revenue model
Our expansion plans establishes Seed Film Bank in developing countries and generates revenue through Seed Film Loan. (※Please see Expansion plans described earlier) In other words, our Revenue model includes the entire process of establishing the Seed Film Bank and operating the Seed Film Loan.
Our selling products are all technical components related to SFC including Seed-attacher, Mulcher, Biodegradable films, Eco-adhesives, fertilizers, and drip-irrigation solution.
Initial product sales mean the establishment of the Seed Film Bank. Initial sales are expected to be paid through the Official Development Assistance. Countries affected by sea-level rise, or those with no irrigation systems, are usually among recipient countries. Machine sales are one-off. The estimated price of Seed-attacher is $ 120,000.
The recursive sale of materials including biodegradable film is based on micro-credit through Seed Film Loan in the Seed Film Bank. The Bank manufactures Seed Films, lends the films and fertilizers to small farmers, and lets the farmers grow rice to produce more than 6 tons there. Then the farmers pay for them with 3 tons of paddy rice after harvest. This method is repeated and expanded continuously in a cyclic manner.
The rice produced by SFC is environmentally friendly rice that uses less water and labor and is free of methane. Therefore, they deserve a fair price, and for this purpose we plan to sell rice.
Why are you applying to the Tiger Challenge?
We've been searching for revolutionary comrades since last year.
This January, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) released the Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment Report, warning that two-thirds of the Tibetan plateau glaciers would disappear by the end of the century. The region stores more snow and ice than anywhere else in the world outside of the polar regions, giving it the 'Third Pole' and is also called the 'Tower of Asia'.
An absolute majority of the world's rice production depends on the rivers originated form here, including Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganges, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow River. ICIMOD’s warning means that the sources of irrigated rice farming may eventually be at risk of exhaustion. Of course, rising sea levels are also damaging the lowland deltas and coastal regions that produce 20% of the world's rice.
Climate change for any reason will have a huge impact on rice farming in the near future.
This is an inescapable future and a food security issue in most Asian countries. However, poor Asian countries have little policy on climate change. So last year, CEO Sung-jin Choe presented it at MIT-Solve's Coastal Community Challenge in New York and was named MIT-Solver 2018. But Westerners were not direct stakeholders on rice farming. The revolution of growing rice outside the water couldn't be started in New York.
Bangladesh is a key stakeholder. May the revolution begin at the Tiger Challenge.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
- Machinery and film manufacturing companies
In principle, all technology should be based on Bangladesh's own manufacturing. Collaboration with related manufacturing companies is essential to apply Upland SFC to all Bangladeshi rice farming.
- Rural Development Academy, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural University and Regional Agricultural Colleges
SFC is so unfamiliar that there is a high risk of failure. Education through hands-on training would be the best way to spread without failure.
- Dr. Mohammad Jahangir / Professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University
Recently, to solve the methane emission and water wastes of continuous flood irrigated rice farming, International Rice Research Institute has developed Alternative Wetting and Drying practice (AWD), that can reduce water usage by up to 30% and methane emissions by 48% without sacrificing yield. However, last year Kritee et al., 2018 published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that AWD can also emit up to 45 times higher nitrous oxide (N2O) as compared to the maximum from continuous flood irrigation practice that predominantly emits methane.
SFC expects to minimize fertilizer and N2O emissions by mulching the film. However, there is no research on this. Research on Upland SFC and N2O reduction is needed, and it would be greatly honored to collaborate with Professor Mohammad Jahangir, a global authority in this field.