Digital farming key to food security – expert

  • 2 January 2019

Source: The Philippine Star
2 Jan 2018

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.