Dig­i­tal farm­ing key to food se­cu­rity – ex­pert

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - By LOUISE MAU­REEN SIMEON

The farm sec­tor in the ASEAN re­gion should veer to­ward the adap­tion of dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture and dis­rup­tive breed­ing tech­nolo­gies to en­sure food se­cu­rity and im­prove its eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion in ev­ery coun­try.

South­east Asian agri­cul­ture ex­pert Paul Teng said tech­nol­ogy adop­tion is a key de­ter­mi­nant of farm growth as dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture, which pri­mar­ily refers to In­ter­net of Things (IoT) en­ables knowl­edge in­ten­sity in the sec­tor.

The farm sec­tor in the ASEAN re­gion is con­sid­ered as the least dig­i­tized sec­tor of the econ­omy with only $4.6 bil­lion in­vested for agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy.

On the con­trary, the needed in­vest­ment for agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy in the re­gion should be about $265 bil­lion an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tion Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

For one, Teng said agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion de­pends highly on weather sta­bil­ity, and IoT pro­vides higher ac­cu­racy of in­for­ma­tion on data-en­abled agri­cul­ture through more ac­cu­rate weather fore­cast­ing.

IoT – mo­bile com­put­ing data sen­sors, satel­lite and im­agery – con­trib­utes to in­for­ma­tion on ir­ri­gation, soil con­di­tion, and to­pog­ra­phy which are crit­i­cal in farm­ing.

Tech­nolo­gies in fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy will also be piv­otal in farm de­vel­op­ment, pro­vid­ing time-sen­si­tive small loans to farm­ers.

“Given that time-sen­si­tive small loans are the big­gest chal­lenge that farm­ers face, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see so­lu­tions such as record-keep­ing plat­forms that en­able small and mar­ginal farm­ers to keep records, track their farm­ing ac­tiv­ity and build a credit pro­file,” Teng said.

“Smart­phones are in­stru­men­tal in col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween fin­tech star­tups and tra­di­tional farm fi­nanc­ing en­ti­ties. This would help farm­ers in ef­fec­tively build­ing a knowl­edge base that will help them get ac­cess to fa­vor­able loan terms that cor­re­late with their farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” he added.

As global pop­u­la­tion is pro­jected to reach 10 bil­lion by 2050, world­wide farm pro­duc­tiv­ity should be raised by 60 per­cent in the next 32 years in or­der to close the food gap.

In the Philip­pines, agri­cul­ture’s con­tri­bu­tion to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct has dropped to 9.7 per­cent and yet em­ploy­ment in the sec­tor is still at 27 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

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