Successful E-learning masterclass for Korean pig farmers

The Wageningen Advance Agriculture Master e-learning class (WAAM) for Korean pig farmers was finalized on 11 June 2021 with a graduation ceremony. The ceremony took place both on and off-line. The seven participating Meister pig farmers received certificates from Wageningen for completing the one-year e-learning masterclass. The program was led by Mr. Robert Hoste, Dr. Seung-Kyun Min and Dr. Chang-Gil Kim, who expressed their appreciation for the farmers’ dedication to the class. Mr. Dong-Hyun Kim, ex-vice prime minister and Ms. Gelare Nader, agricultural counsellor of LAN Seoul (the agricultural department of the Netherlands embassy in Seoul) attended the ceremony and gave congratulatory speeches.

WAAM presentation

Background of WAAM class and its members

South Korea has a Meister system for farmers who reached a very professional level in farming. There are 13 Meisters in total in the swine sector of Korea. Dr. Min and Dr. Kim, who led this program discussed the idea about e-learning masterclass with the pig Meisters, and seven of these Meisters (MJ Kim, IH Song, JG Lee, MI Eum, HO Jeong, NG Choi and SH Sul) decided to join the program.

Dr. Seung-Kyu Min has been active in education of farmers by establishing the Korea Venture Agriculture College, after finishing his duty as the vice minister of MAFRA (Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) between 2009 and 2010, as well as  the administer of RDA (Rural Development Administration) between 2010 and 2011. Having heard of the reputation of the Netherlands in agriculture, Dr. Min visited the Netherlands in 2016 for a period of one year as a researcher for a period of one year  to stay at Wageningen Research Center (WUR) as a researcher for one year, getting acquainted with the Dutch agriculture practices. LAN Seoul introduced him to Mr. Robert Hoste from WUR, who was preparing a Top Sector project on the Korean pig chain at the time. After the outbreak of COVID-19, Dr. Min too the initiative to set up the e-learning masterclass for pig farmers  by consulting with Korea’s leading pig farmers and Mr. Robert Hoste.

Dr. Chang-Gil Kim played an important role as a principal of this masterclass. As a professor of Seoul National University, he has been a researcher in KREI (Korea Rural Economic Institute) for a long time, studying mainly climate change and sustainable agriculture. He became the president (vice minister level) of KREI in 2016-2019. Dr. Kim has had close contact  with Dutch researchers and LAN Seoul. In 2018, as a result of his support, South Korea and the Netherlands were able to co-organize  the second food security conference in Korea.

As a pig economist in Wageningen Economic Research, Mr. Robert Hoste has been interested in the Korean swine sector as it has a potential to grow more, and has kept in touch with LAN Seoul to seek opportunities to conduct a top sector project. Finally in 2017, Mr. Hoste started a 4-year top sector project, together with Korean government (EPIS), Korean farmer’s organization (NACF) and Dutch pig technology companies. Through this, he accumulated deep knowledge regarding the Korean swine sector as well as Korean culture.

Program details

18 lectures were designed by Wageningen Economic Research. The virtual masterclasses hosted in the Netherlands took place using  Microsoft Teams, and all lectures  by Dutch researchers and trainers  were translated by an English-speaking Korean veterinarian. As the seven pig farmers came all over the country, they mostly  gathered in an agricultural cooperative office for the e-learning masterclasses in Daejeon city, located in the center of Korea..  During the course of the program,  Dr. Min and Dr. Kim arranged 22 off-line lectures by Korean professionals, while the 7 pig farmers gave presentations to share their knowhow and experiences in their pig farm business. The costs and tuition fees for this program were paid by farmers. LAN Seoul  supported  the translation costs and arranged for extra contents during the animal welfare session.

* Schedule
-    May 2020: Kick off meeting. LAN Seoul also joined.
-    June 2020: Pre-session with two lectures by local pig experts
-    July 2020: Introduction of WAAM by Mr. Robert Hoste
-    September 2020: Animal disease control session
-    October 2020: Animal Welfare session. LAN Seoul (Ms. Gelare Nader) gave a presentation about  animal welfare policies and best practices in the Netherlands.
-    November 2020: Pig data management session. LAN Seoul (Mr. Hojin Kang) gave a presentation on lessons learned from NL agriculture.
-    December 2021: Climate control session
-    February 2021:  Feed and nutrition session
-    March 2021:  Smart pig farm business session
-    April 2021: Breeding and genetics session
-    May 2021: Manure treatment session
-    June 2021: Graduation ceremony. LAN Seoul gave a congratulatory speech.

Results and lessons learned

In a survey after the graduation, pig farmers gave score 8.6 / 10  for overall evaluation. In the beginning, pig farmers focused on learning skills to improve PSY (Piglets weaned per Sow per Year) and MSY (Marketed pigs per Sow per Year) using Dutch models, as the Netherlands is renowned for having one of the highest PSY and MSY rates in the world. During the course of the program the pig farmers came to the realization that that the spirit of cooperation with other farmers and taking responsibility for sustainability and animal welfare were also crucial. In that sense, the class played important role in broadening their horizons.

The farmers regret that they didn’t have that the opportunity to visit other farms in Korea and in the Netherlands due to Covid-19 and the prevailing African Swine Fever. As they are pioneering farmers, they have the capacity to learn much more by looking at other cases. The class leaders and pig farmers are now planning the 2nd masterclass for young pig farmers starting in 2021 and 2022. They will try diversify the program by adding more farm visits. It is also an idea to arrange virtual visits to NL pig farms.

The 7 pig farmers agreed to meet at one of farms every other month after the graduation. This implies that the e-learning class triggered cooperation between farmers, similar to the ‘Kenniskring’ in the Netherlands in which  farmers gather regularly to discuss new technology, knowhow and regulation, and to tackle challenges together.

Meister Pig Farmers
Graduation Ceremony on 11 June 2021