By Chairerg Sagwansupyakorn, Former APSA President and current President of ThaSTA
Born in 1950 in Prakanong, in the then-outskirts of Bangkok, I have always had a keen interest in seeds, plants and agriculture. As a youth I spent a lot of time around my family’s rice mill. After graduating high school, I enrolled at Thailand’s main agriculture research institution, Kasetsart University, where I studied Soil Science for my undergraduate years, followed by a master’s degree in Horticulture.
I got hired as a researcher with the Horticulture Department, and from early on I learned the value of teamwork. On my research team were two guys who I still consult with to this day, Kasem Piluek and Sutevee Sukprakarn. Having worked together for several years, the three of us went on to further our studies abroad. Kasem, a specialist in plant breeding, went to the Philippines. Sutevee, whose focus was in seed technology, went to New Zealand. And I went to Japan, having been awarded the Mobushu Scholarship to pursue my Ph.D. at Tsukuba University, where I studied flowering physiology.
It was there in Japan that I really gained a strong understanding of seeds. The Japanese style of learning proved very beneficial to me, such as the way they analyse data very deeply, which turns out to be essential for isolating problems and solving them. I am particularly thankful to my professors, Okagi, Suzuki and Shinohara, for my success there. After returning to Thailand in 1987, a Thai professor, Ms. Somporn, encouraged me to focus on seeds.
Around that time, vegetable seed production was shifting from Taiwan to Thailand, and there was a lot of R&D potential. Reunited with my teammates, Dr. Kasem and Dr. Sutevee, and with our combined strengths and knowledge, we made a lot of ground in our department, producing a number of new varieties of tomatoes, beans, peas and other vegetables.
In 1997, around the time the economic crisis hit, I was eager for a new challenge, so I resigned from my government job and joined a private firm, Thai Seed and Agriculture, or TSA, initially as Vice Director, then later as Managing Director, a position
I held for about a decade.
As someone with strong linkages in both the private and public sectors, I have always enjoyed addressing challenges and solving them. I am proud to have been part of both ThaSTA and APSA from their early stages, and am grateful to have served as President for both (2009-2010 for APSA and ThaSTA 2016-2017).
The seed industry is constantly growing and changing, so we all need to be ready to adapt and change with it too. Government doesn’t always understand the challenges facing traders, but progress is constantly being made.
At the same time the private sector needs the government, in terms of research resources, policy and regulations. No one can stand alone, but we must combine our strengths and move forward, together.
In Asia, there’s a certain culture where sometimes we just need to sit down at a table and talk it out, openly bringing out our issues. Regulations and rules have their purpose in the seed industry, but they aren’t always the most effective way to solve some issues. There’s nothing like a good old heart-to-heart, and this is what I hope to see more of in our associations.
For now, I’ve come out of retirement and have returned to TSA full time as Managing Director. In addition to wearing hats for ThaSTA and APSA, I find myself busy as ever; being on the road a lot, visiting research stations, meeting with officials, advising and linking components and seedsman so as to mitigate and solve problems. It’s what I love to do and I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon.
Finally, I would like to extend thanks to everyone for their support and dedication, which can and will only lead to good things.
This column originally featured in Asian Seed, Volume 22, Issue 6, on page 34.