Category Archives: Science and Technology/Research and Development/Innovation

Stress-tolerant rice to help farmers win drought, submergence

Stress-tolerant rice to help farmers win drought, submergence

A Bangladeshi rice farmer escapes drought as her rice plants are ready for harvest in November. Image and caption source:

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury

Farmers in drought-prone regions of Bangladesh can now look forward to a more bountiful rice harvest, with two drought-tolerant rice varieties — BRRI dhan56 and BRRI dhan57 — released recently, as the wet season ends and water becomes scarce, International Rice Research Institute said Friday.

Two newly developed submergence-tolerant varieties of rice — BRRI dhan-51 and BRRI dhan-52 — have also been cultivated this Aman season in a large-scale ushering in a new era of boosting rice production in the country.

Unlike most rain-dependent rice varieties in Bangladesh planted in the Aman monsoon season from July to November, BRRI dhan56 and BRRI dhan57 remain healthy amid drought, which can occur towards the end of the season, because they take a shorter time to mature than other popular local varieties.

Because of this early maturity and good grain quality of BRRI dhan56 and BRRI dhan57, farmers can harvest more rice and get high-value rice from these two varieties when drought occurs, according to an IRRI press release issued from its headquarter Manila.

Drought-like-situation has been one of the biggest enemies of Bangladeshi farmers, so much so that the country has a record of drought spells with historical significance dating back to the 1700s. In 1999, Bangladesh suffered the longest drought in 50 years, with more than four months without rain, and, in 2010, the country recorded its lowest rainfall since 1995.

‘Equipping Bangladeshi farmers with rice varieties that can tolerate dry conditions will be vital if we want to help people avoid poor harvests, which can increase the incidence of poverty,’ IRRI representative in Bangladesh Mohammed Zainul Abedin said.

‘Climate change is likely to increase the occurrence of extreme weather events such as drought,’ he said.

BRRI dhan56, developed by IRRI, is the first drought-tolerant rice variety released in Bangladesh that can provide from 0.8 to 1.2 tonnes per hectare more yield than the presently cultivated varieties despite three weeks of no rain.

The other variety, BRRI dhan57, was developed by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. This variety also possesses a similar yield advantage despite the absence of rain for two weeks.

Both varieties were tested in the drought-prone Rajshahi region and are now being released in the northern districts of the Barind Tract — Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Natore and Naugaon.

The varieties are also of economic significance to other districts that are known drought hot spots – Kushtia, Magura, Chuadanga, and Jessore – where rain seldom occurs and is erratic and uncertain during the last week of September and in October when rice plants need water.

Arvind Kumar, IRRI rice breeder for drought tolerance, said, ‘Both varieties are also resistant to blast – a common rice disease in Bangladesh – and have good grain quality.’

In a participatory evaluation, farmers’ feedback shows that they prefer these varieties as they also cater to their local needs, claimed scientists.

Farmers not only from the northern region but also the southern regions of Bangladesh are likely to appreciate BRRI dhan56 for its colored grain type like Swarna, a popular high-yielding South Asian variety, BRRI rice breeder Tamal Aditya Lata said.

‘On the other hand, some farmers will also choose BRRI dhan57 for its long and slender grains,’ she said.

Though BRRI dhan-51 and BRRI dhan-52 were released only last year, they have been cultivated on a vast tract of land as the government, private sector as well as farmers produced enough seeds within a short period of time, the Seed Wing director general, Anwar Faruque, told public news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.

He said farmers in the low-lying areas suffer most as their cultivated paddy fields were submerged by flood waters almost every year, which hampers paddy production to a great extent.

Bangladesh Rice Research Institute director Khairul Bashar said normal yield of BRRI Dhan-51 and BRRI Dhan-52 is 5 to 5.5 tonnes a hectare, but when submerged, the yield is 4 to 4.5 tonnes.

The newly developed submerged varieties can survive maximum 18 days after inundation but it depends on the quality of water, temperature as well as environment, Bashar said.

BRRI dhan 51 and BRRI dhan 52 were cultivated in Sirajganj, Rangpur, Kurigram and Gaibandha this Aman season, according to the Department of Agriculture Extension.

Bashar said the BRRI was giving priority to developing stress-tolerant rice with a view to increasing rice production to ensure food security amid threats of climate change in the country.


Zinc rice by 2013

Zinc rice by 2013
New variety to help children be in sound health
Saidul Haque

Agricultural scientists of the country will release a new variety of rice – zinc-fortified rice – by 2013 with concentration of 24 mg of zinc a kg essential for both physical and mental growth of children.

Alamgir Hossain, principal scientific officer of Plant Breeding Division of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), said: “We are trying to develop it in bio-fortification process and the production target is about 7 tonnes per hectare as the farmers are interested in cultivating the variety because of its high yielding capacity.”

Harvest Plus, an international research project under Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGSIR), will release the new variety by 2013.

Nowadays farmers are not willing to cultivate less yielding variety of rice because of less profit, said the researchers of BRRI.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said she suggested that the scientists should take into consideration such a variety that will reduce the production cost of farmers.

A new variety of rice must be tasty apart from other qualities to become popular, otherwise it will bring no positive results, the minister mentioned.

Most of the people in our country suffer from zinc deficiency while it is essential for both mental and physical growth of children.

Children of low-income family of the country are fully dependent on rice and their physical growth is hampering due to zinc deficiency, Alamgir said.

For the micronutrient deficiency, our nation is lagging behind intellectually compared to that of other nations, he added.

According to World Health Organisation, if 20 percent of children of a country do not have proper physical growth compared to their age, it is considered that people of that country are experiencing serious zinc deficiency.

“Most of the people in our country can not meet the demand for zinc,” said Mohammad Abdul Mannan, director general of BRRI. The average amount of zinc in BRRI released rice variety is 13 mg/kg which is not sufficient for human body, said Abdul Mannan.

“We are also trying to enrich the new rice variety with iron content so that people can get both iron and zinc in the same rice,” Abdul Mannan informed.

Mahabub Hossain, executive director of BRAC said, “We are very much hopeful about this new rice variety; we are also trying to keep its price within the reach of consumers to popularise it,” Mahabub said.

Bangladeshi scientist develops surgical thread from dairy by-product

Milk magician
Bangladeshi scientist develops surgical thread from dairy by-product; trials show it doubly efficient

Dr Azam Ali

Reaz Ahmad

A Bangladeshi scientist has developed a fibre from milk protein as medical suture for repairing damaged tissues, cut vessels and surgical incisions in a biodegradable way.

The suture that combines a polymer with an easy to extract dairy by-product is more biocompatible than others available now, and hold the potential of minimising the use of drugs by patients.

And clinical trials on animals have already shown the fibre can help heal wound in almost half the time conventional suture materials do.

The man behind the breakthrough, biomaterials scientist Dr Azam Ali, disclosed this to The Daily Star in an exclusive e-mail interview from Christchurch, New Zealand.

“A patent has been filed. Soon it (the suture) will go on a human clinical trial and, if everything else goes smoothly, be available commercially within three years,” says Azam, who heads biomaterials and nanotechnology research team at Lincoln Research Centre of AgResearch, New Zealand’s premier seat of frontier research.

Dr Azam, who won the Bayer Innovator of the Year 2010 award for his invention of quick wound healer bio-based dressing (using wool protein), says since dairy protein is easily accessible, the end product will be relatively inexpensive.

He blends together biomaterial from dairy-milk protein and absorbable polymer made from a plant to develop fibre as a medical suture for stitching wounds. It is developed in a way to be biologically degradable and safely absorbed in the tissue so that the surgical seams need not be removed.

The dairy protein is from whey, a liquid by-product from the process of making cheese or casein. The polymer provides the mechanical strength to close a wound and the dairy protein the faster healing qualities and other functions.

“The milk protein provides the biological character and reduces inflammation of the area and coagulates the blood. It creates a thin layer called granulation tissue and then subsequently epithelialises to make a new skin tissue. Conventional sutures do not have such bioactive molecules to play the role for fast healing,” explains Azam.

Azam says they are looking at the next step of developing dairy protein into soft skin tissue for skin grafts, and is in talks with giant companies such as dairy cooperative Fonterra about opportunities.

“In the meantime, I have invented two bone grafts medical implant technologies for the regeneration of defective or lost bone via implantation surgical procedures. So, no longer we require any stainless steel or titanium metallic implant. More importantly the newly developed implants will be ultimately absorbed by bone tissue and subsequently generate a new bone onto it. There is no need to go to hospital to remove it, as required in case of other metallic alternatives,” says the Bangladeshi researcher.

Four international patents were filed for the development of this bone graft implant technology, reveals Azam. He holds six patents related to nanotechnology and wound dressing biomaterials, and 12 others in his other research areas which include bone graft implants, dairy protein biomaterials, shrimp or crab shells biomaterials and palm oil based bio-resins.

He mentioned that the two bone graft implants are at clinical study stage now.

The 44-year-old biomaterials scientist aims at making many of today’s synthetic medical accessories redundant in his lifetime by replacing those with bio-based regenerative medicines (fibres?).

The bio-based dressing that he invented by using wool protein is widely in use in New Zealand, and the product also got approval from the regulatory authorities in the USA, the EU and Australia.

Getting an offer for a position of scientist at AgResearch seven years back, Azam took the challenge to see if high-value medical products could be made from wool protein, widely available in New Zealand.

And he led a team to develop new medical technologies, some still in their infancies, but some so advanced that it leads the world.

US researchers are working towards producing medical products from hair and nail protein, and in Australia wool materials are being used, but the research of Azam’s team is more advanced with patents already protecting the work.

Azam says, “The bio-based dressings are highly effective for healing chronic wound within 2-3 weeks. More importantly, the dressings are fully absorbed by body tissue during the progression of healing and regenerating new skin tissue.”

Azam, who had his schooling in Dinajpur and had his master’s degree in chemistry from Jahangirnagar University, says he always keeps in mind the potential of his research pursuits in benefiting people back home in Bangladesh.

“I think there are lots of potential bio-based materials unutilised or not adequately utilised (shrimp shell, silk etc.) in Bangladesh,”he says.

He intends to develop a type of medical technology or biopharma products (such as bio-based dressing, bone graft implant or other medical technology) by utilising local bio-based materials like shrimp shells, silk etc.

A Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company recently expressed interest in collaboration in this regard, and discussions are in progress, he said without giving details.

BD scientist brings good news for acid victims

BD scientist brings good news for acid victims

Dr Azam Ali (in the middle), winner of New Zealand’s prestigious Bayer Innovators Awards 2010 in Science and Health category poses with other winners of the award. Photo: Bayer Innovators

BSS, Dhaka

A Bangladeshi scientist now living in New Zealand has brought good news for the people with severe wound and similar physical injury from acid attack and fire incident.

Dr Azam Ali, an agro-scientist, has invented a bio-based wound dressing, which cures severe wound 40 percent faster than any other conventional medicine currently available on the market.

A leading pharmaceutical company from Bangladesh has already contacted the scientist to introduce the new product on the local market.

The breakthrough innovation of the Bangladeshi scientist won the globally reputed Bayer Innovation of the Year Award in 2010.

Ali has invented bio-based materials to create new wound dressing, bone-graft implant products and medical suture technology using wool from New Zealand sheep. He uses low-volume protein sources from the wool to wound dressing and medical devices.

Two of his wound-care medical products are now being used at New Zealand hospitals and are approved for use in Australia, United States and the European Union.

“Bangladesh can get benefit out of the invention,” Ali said in an interview with BSS last week when he came to Dhaka for a personal visit.

He said the new wound dressing dramatically brings down the treatment time while the result is far better than any other existing treatment process as the bio-based wound dressing accelerates wound healing process and tissue growth.

“It works 40 percent faster than any other traditional products in wound treatment”, Ali said.

The scientist sees very bright prospect of using the new product in Bangladesh because of availability of natural raw materials.

He pointed out that Bangladesh can use shrimp shell in place of wool to produce the same products with similar quality and effectiveness.

‘There is lot of shrimp shells available at the industry where shrimp are being processed regularly for either export or domestic use,” he said.

Ali said he is now in talks with a local pharmaceutical company to introduce the products in Bangladesh.

“We are expecting a positive result from the on-going discussions and hoping to introduce the products in a year,” he said,

He believes the new products will serve better in treating the acid victims and the people with severe burn injury.

He, however, said the treatment would be costlier than the existing synthetic products, but it would heal the wounds of the acid and burn victims to the extent so they can get back to normal life.

A post graduate in chemistry from Jahangirnagar University, Ali did higher study in his subject in the United State before joining in research work first in Korea and then in New Zealand.

Currently, he is a senior scientist at the AgResearch, a leading research organisation in New Zealand.

Maiden R&D set up to nurture local talents

Maiden R&D set up to nurture local talents

MD Fazlur Rahman

Samsung Bangladesh Research Centre (SBRC), the first research and development (R&D) setup by Samsung Electronics in the country, will not only cater to local demands but also Middle Eastern and African countries, its managing director said.

Last month, Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest technology company by sales, launched the R&D centre at Uday Tower in Gulshan, first of its kind by any multinational company in Bangladesh.

“Whatever you see in Samsung mobiles in Bangladesh, we will develop,” said Nam Kyu Lee, managing director of SBRC Ltd. “But our target is not only the Bangladeshi market. We have also targeted other Asian and African countries including Australia.”

“We will customise our products in line with needs of the consumers,” he told The Daily Star during an exclusive interview recently.

So far, the SBRC, the Seoul-based company’s 18th R&D centre in the world and second in South Asia, organised five job fairs and four campus-recruiting events at the country’s top universities and hired 180 fresh graduates.

“We will hire 300 graduate engineers this year. Our ultimate target is to recruit 1,000 people by 2013. That will however depend on the performance of the current staff working here and R&D need of Korean market worldwide,” said Lee.

Lee, 46, said they would also hire qualified and talented Bangladeshis living abroad, particularly in the USA and Canada.

All engineers and staffs currently working at the centre are Bangladeshis apart from two South Koreans, including Lee.

Lee said they are facing problems in recruiting skilled and experienced people. “Our engineers are not experienced. They have no experience about the domain of Samsung and mobile software development.”

“We are training them on basic things for four weeks and then on project specific topic and mobile software for another four weeks. We will then start physical work.”

SBRC is working with Samsung’s R&D centre in India and headquarters to train its people. “We have sent some of our engineers to India to work with staffs there. We are also sending a number of engineers to our headquarters in South Korea,” said Lee, who joined Samsung in 1988.

Lee said the main focus of the centre is to develop software for mobile phones, which will be used by Samsung alone. There is also demand from R&D sector, so it will provide core software.

“Initially, our products will be used for Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries. We will also develop software for South East Asian countries and Australia.”

He said they are working on developing software for feature phones or low-cost phones. “We will later move to smartphone segments.”

“We will not develop hardware here.”

The Samsung official said the SBRC is also working on developing digital camera applications and mobile testing system.

“We will develop mobile testing. Whenever we develop any mobile software, its needed to be tested before launching. Different models have been in place in different markets across the world. So, whenever we have a new model, we will have to test it internally.”

On pilot basis, the SBRC has already developed software like Bangladesh tour guide to help tourists travelling the country with information where and how they can go.

“We have also developed software for Bangladesh calendar and clocks for prayers. These are available online free,” he said.

“These are some of the examples we are working on. We will expand scopes as we move on. Our target is to provide all software solutions to Muslim people around the world,” he said, adding that this is the first R&D centre in a Muslim country.

He said Bangladesh is a Muslim country with over 16 crore population. There are Middle Eastern countries. In South East Asia, there are a number of countries that are Muslim majority.

“We want to provide all software solutions to those countries. We will develop both feature and smart phones for Muslim people,” he said. “They are our major target customers. Then we will extend our services around the world.”

Lee said Samsung chose Bangladesh to set up the R&D centre due to its abundant cheap labour and huge population.

“Bangladesh is one of the populous countries in the world. We believe that there are a lot of talents in the country, but there is no multinational company here to tap their potential. It will be easy to hire talented people.”

“We also do not have R&D centre in any Muslim country. We need such centre in one of the Muslim countries to extend our R&D scope.”

SBRC is now working on projects provided by its headquarters, where its brands products are manufactured. But Lee said the Dhaka centre has to develop a good number of ideas.

“Every other R&D centre has its own characteristics. We also have to have our own characteristics. By next year, we will have to propose our projects.”

“By 2012, we will start performing independently, as there is competition among R&D centres within Samsung. If we cannot generate ideas then we will have no speciality. We will only have to complete projects of headquarters.”

Lee, who was educated in computer science at Yonsei University in Korea, believes if his venture succeeds then other multinational companies would consider setting up such centres in Bangladesh.

He urged the government to offer tax reductions for long-time to companies who want to set up R&D centres in the country.

Last year Samsung spent US$4.5 million to set up offices and bear other expenditures. This year, the spending could reach $6 million.

Samsung opens R&D centre

Samsung opens R&D centre

Syed Modasser Ali, third from left, the prime minister's health affairs adviser, is seen at the launch of a research and development centre of Samsung Electronics Company in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: STAR

Star Business Report

Samsung Electronics Company Ltd, the world’s largest technology company by sales, yesterday launched its research and development centre in Dhaka, the first of its kind by any multinational company in Bangladesh.

Yeafesh Osman, state minister for science and information and communication technology, inaugurated the Samsung Bangladesh R&D Centre Ltd at a ceremony at Uday Tower in Gulshan.

The centre, the Seoul-based company’s 18th R&D centre in the world and second in South Asia, will reinforce the journey of the government toward implementing a ‘Digital Bangladesh’, he added.

“Bangladesh and its IT industry have immense potential. Unfortunately, limited opportunities have opened for skilled graduates of Bangladesh, who are quite considerable in number, to work for big IT companies.”

The South Korean technology powerhouse aims to utilise the strengths of the skilled workforce of Bangladesh by actively responding to the rising calls of those aspiring to put to test their software-related capabilities.

The company has already recruited over 100 Bangladeshi engineers for the centre to develop mobile devices for Asia, Africa and Australia. The centre now plans to hire 1,000 engineers by 2013, said NamKyu Lee, managing director of SBRC Ltd, later at another event at the Westin Dhaka.

“Local talents are leaving Bangladesh to get world-class jobs, and consequently the country is losing its skilled human resources. The R&D centre will open a world of opportunities for them and the industry,” he said.

“In Bangladesh, our target is to become the best R&D centre in the world,” said Lee, adding that the centre would also focus on advanced technology and conduct other IT researches.

Prof Syed Modasser Ali, adviser to the prime minister on health affairs, said the R&D centre is very important for any country, as it helps the society go forward.

Kiho Kim, global head of digital media and communications for the R&D Centre of Samsung, said: “The research centre is going to create a synergy effect as the company aims to train the engineers and market its products in the region.”

He said the Digital Bangladesh Vision of the government has brought in a great opportunity for the people and the country’s IT industry. “This centre will help attract other global companies to set their R&D centres in Bangladesh.”

TaiYoung Cho, Korean ambassador to Bangladesh, said the project would have great implications on the ICT sector and bilateral relations between the two countries. “The Bangladeshi government should come up with full-fledged support to make it a win-win venture.”

He said Samsung has taken a right decision by choosing Bangladesh as the destination for its second R&D centre in South Asia, as the country is full of talents and innovative too.

Bangladesh Computer Samity President Mostafa Jabbar and Bangladesh Computer Council Executive Director Md Mahfuzur Rahman also spoke.

BJRI scientist invents tech to produce paper pulp from Dhanicha

BJRI scientist invents tech to produce paper pulp from Dhanicha

DHAKA, Jan 13 (BSS)- A Bangladeshi scientist has invented a technology to produce newsprint paper and packaging materials from Dhanicha, a locally produced jute like fibrous plant.

Sheikh Abul Hasib, a Senior Scientific Officer (SSO) of Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI), invented the technology to produce molded pulp from fiber of Dhanicha to make paper and packaging materials.

Dhanicha, so far known as a weed that extensively grows across the country, is now usually used for fencing and fuel purposes in rural areas.

But, Hasib said, it would be a major source of pulp for manufacturing paper and packaging materials in coming days.

paper and packaging materials to be produced from Dhanicha will be less expensive and can be recycled after a life-cycle, the scientist said.

Manufacturing stage of the technology is over and BJRI will take initiative for patent of the technology, Hasib, who took three years time for this technology, said.

The know-how can be commercially used after completion of the process of the patent, he said.

Highlighting the salient feature of the new technology, Hasib said paper pulp can be produced from Dhanicha in normal atmospheric pressure and 60 to 80 degree centigrade temperature.

The pulp to be made under the process will be fully free from sulfur and chlorine, he said.

Hasib said, level of consumption of fuel in this technology is also very low as both `digestion’ and `bleaching’ of the fiber are done at the same time. For this purpose, he said, environment friendly chlorine dioxide (clo2) instead of chlorine (ci) is used.

Director general of BJRI Dr Kamal Uddin said the institute would give a public announcement about the innovation very soon. We are trying to procure a `digester’ which is required to make molded pulp from the fiber, he said.

“I firmly believe that the technology will be epoch making innovation for the country,” he said, adding, “I hope that it will be the cheapest technology to produce paper pulp in the world”.

Abul Hasib said, as cultivation of Dhanicha is very easy and it is produced round the year allover the country, supply of raw materials will be possible.

“The new technology will save valuable bamboo, wood and jute resources of the country which are now being used widely for producing paper pulp destroying the country’s forests and environment,” he said.

The BJRI DG said at the directives of Minister of Textiles and Jute Abdul Latif Siddiqui, the institute initiated the project to invent technology for diversified use of jute and jute products.

The invention of the technology of producing paper pulp from Dhanicha plant is a part of that endeavour, he said.