Smart agriculture is seen as an important means in solving the problems along the agricultural value chain, including periodic supply and demand imbalance, shortage of labor resources, climate change, and food safety etc. Hence, governments of many countries are adopting policy measures to promote smart agriculture through R & D promotion, subsidies on equipment, farmer extension and establishment of a linkage system among stakeholders.
However, the adoption of smart agriculture is still in its early stage, especially among smallholder farmers in Asia. The reasons behind this include high initial investment costs, lack of accumulated adequate data, low reliability and inter-compatibility of equipment, as well as the lack of motivation to adopt new ways of production. In addition, the prevalence of smart agriculture may lead to structural changes such as capital-intensification of farming, commercialization of collected data, intensifying polarization between leading and small farmers, and digitalization of the agricultural value chain which affects the competitiveness and benefit of smallholder farmers.
By sharing the updated policy measures and case studies, the aim of this policy forum is to seek ways to facilitate the promotion and adoption of smart agriculture by smallholder farmers in the Asia-Pacific countries and to prepare for the possible structural changes.
The workshop was conducted by FFTC in partnership with Agricultural Technology Research Institute (ATRI), Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute (TARI), National Agricultural Co-operative Federation (NACF) and FFTC-AP contracted partners. Fifteen experts from ten countries (Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam), shared their knowledge and perspectives from the public and private sectors and the academe. The presentation materials include 10PPTs, 10 papers, a proceeding, a WebEx workshop video, and a Facebook livestreamed video.
Key takeaways were summarized by presentation:
k-1 COA’s "Smart Agriculture" project since 2017 focuses on integrating ICT components for 10 selected leading agricultural industries and aims to draw up R&D course. It is to establish smart agriculture industrial ecosystem” by creating smart agriculture technical service to assist in agriculture production application, comprehensive agriculture industrial chain application, new technology collaboration, and data integration. The focus nee1ds to be on "the accurate and effective integration of a variety of agricultural knowledge and technologies for R&D and application," "the use of labor-saving technological products to fill in the gap of labor shortage," and "the promotion of popular application of achievement results through the ecosystem and agricultural service mechanism. (COA, Taiwan)
S1-1 In the value chain, it is important to link all the main activities that produce added value and support activities. However, South Korea's smart agriculture has a structure that is considerably biased to the production stage where agricultural products are cultivated. In 2018, the government initiated the ‘Smart Farm Innovation Valley’ creation plan which is a complex that can perform various demonstrations on greenhouses and drones for agriculture, as well as educational centers and training farms. For small-scale farmers to participate in the value chain, the government needs to first establish an intelligent agricultural big data platform. (Korea Univ., Korea)
S1-2 Currently Vietnam can only meet some components of Smart Agriculture due to the out of synchronous infrastructure to be able to apply IoT connectivity. Challenges in applying smart agriculture for smallholder farmers in Vietnam includes small scale, low investment capital, old and outdated equipment, poor information infrastructure in the rural areas, scattered digital database, etc. Government policies to implement the smart agriculture, focal point at the ministerial level to design the information structure, high-quality human resources, and public-private partnerships are recommended. (VAAS, Vietnam)
S1-3 The technology transfer system in MARDI has evolved from a simple dissemination of technical papers to technical training and to a complete transfer system package. Recently MARDI organized training courses on AgroCube technology called “Agora X: Plant Factory Technology and Fertilization” for young agropreneurs. A smart partnership comprising of policymakers, scientists, the private sector and the farming community are crucial to affect change by allowing the nexus of technological advancement, policy-making decisions, business acumen as well as the needs of farmers to coexist and coalesce. (MARDI, Malaysia)
S1-4 Consistent with the ICT development in agriculture, the implementation of smart farming has also been limited. This smart farming development has been constrained by limited ICT infrastructure, particularly in the lagging regions, limited capacity of potential users, and the cost of ICT services. Therefore, government policy to promote further development of smart farming, areas should focus on: expanding investment in ICT infrastructures, increase capacity of the farmers to access and utilize smart farming technology, and develop a regulatory framework to provide confidence to all stakeholders on implementing ICT business and facilitate potential users to the implementation of smart farming. (ICASEPS, Indonesia)
K-2 Based on the management strategy, community-based precision agriculture can be organized as a holistic management scheme for rural agriculture, including small farms, local industry, and food chain organizations. To make support for the activity in private sectors, ICT strategy regarding interoperability and portability of the field data, standardization of data and information protocol, commonly available terminology to share the information across the sectors are needed. (Tokyo Univ., Japan)
S2-1 There are potentially negative effects of smart agriculture such as digital divide and unequal development, technical unemployment, and the knock-on impact on rural populations. There are constraints in terms of the technological readiness to apply technologies and innovations. A way for training technology is by educating farmers to understand what the technology was and how it could be beneficial to them. Government starts with the large-scale farming by gathering small-scale farming to collaborate into large-scale farming for reducing the production cost and sharing knowledge with each other. (NABC, Thailand)
S2-2 The “Smart Farm Management System” in Taiwan is aimed to simplify operations and to improve production management efficiency. For the next step, there are five issues, namely, to strengthen standardization of the success cases and share the knowledge, to promote the cooperation between system users and the agricultural research agencies, to construct the big data database, to keep tutoring agricultural digitalization and to explore the further possible applications from industry, to develop the chain of custody and the close management of the supply chain. (COA, Taiwan)
S2-3 Inclusive value chain is a concept that emphasizes the commercial, developmental, and poverty-alleviating potential of small-scale farmers' inclusion in the value chain. This approach enables small-holder farmers to be involved not just in the production of raw materials, but more importantly, in value-adding activities and processes, as well as linking them to relevant institutions. The opportunities to address them through strategic partnerships brings with it opportunities to make the value chain smarter and maximize the benefits of smart technologies.( DOST-PCAARRD, Philippines)
S2-4 Smart Technologies will provide significant solutions to cope with our problems of tomorrow by increasing the productivity of scarce agricultural land, securing and enhancing soil fertility, optimizing the use of the scarce factor water, precise application of fertilizers and pesticides, avoiding losses and excess use of anything, ensuring sustainable and profitable agriculture, reduction of climate gas emissions from agriculture.
A panel of session speakers and panelists followed the 10 presentations to discuss the topics provided by the moderator.
(1) Faced with many obstacles, what are the first steps to promote smart agriculture?
Most of the speakers pointed out the importance of strengthening the readiness and capacity of small-scale farmers and emphasized the role of cooperatives and other farmer’s organizations in the adoption of new technologies. In addition, the need to reduce the ICT infrastructure gap between urban and rural areas and to support investment capital were also proposed.
(2) What is the biggest problem in the process of structural change brought about by the promotion of smart agriculture, and what preparations should be made?
The possible problems such as market failure of ICT underinvestment in rural areas, agri-business monopoly, digital divide among farmers, and technical unemployment were pointed out. As countermeasures against this, the creation of an environment in which young people can actively participate in agriculture, a community-based approach, and an inclusive value chain approach were suggested.
(3) To strengthen the value chain linkage, what kind of effort will be required?
The successful cases of public-private partnership were introduced by the panelists from MARDI, PCAARRD, and SUSS. The need to strengthen the linkages among all stakeholders such as farmers, local government, technology company and marketing sector was also proposed.
The forum was concluded by remarks from the FFTC Director.
Suggestions and conclusions
236 people registered for the forum, including participants from the Philippines (62), Vietnam (29), Malaysia (28), Thailand (18), Myanmar (15), Korea (13), Taiwan (10), Indonesia (9), Japan (7) and other countries. About 70% belonged to the public sector while 30% were from the private sector. The online workshop was mainstreamed live on two platforms - the Cisco Webex platform (max. 200 seats) and the FFTC Facebook Page. The Facebook video stream reached more than 1,400 views in one day. The Feedback form was sent to participants the day after the workshop and 72 responded to the survey questionnaire. The majority of the respondents were satisfied with the workshop in terms of content (94.4%), relevance (91.6%) and logistics (>80%). Overall, based on the survey, the workshop was successful in terms of planning, coordination, and delivery.