The challenges of global markets, more complex supply chains, and stringent regulations highlight the potential for technology solutions in the agricultural space.
Partners at the Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Forum 2018 highlighted how agriculture stakeholders can approach technological solutions to solve these problems. While there are advanced plays that might suit more established agribusinesses, it should be noted that different levels of technology are available to suit smaller agricultural enterprises. The key is to find the appropriate technology to meet the expressed need and that will help people achieve their objectives.
It should also be noted that tech could also mean a farming technology such as irrigation, plant nutrition, and seed science. The same principle applies. For example, smallholder farms need not spend money on a complex irrigation network if a rainwater catchment system will suffice.
Low tech is still tech.
For smallholder farmers living in rural areas where even Internet coverage is limited, the idea of technological solutions might seem unrealistic. In such cases, simpler may mean better. Technology can and should be adapted to suit the local scenarios of farmers.
If a 3G network is unavailable, then maybe the simpler text message technology is more suitable. If an online tracking system is not possible, then a simple Excel sheet may be the answer, or even, a pen-and-paper system, such as a logbook or checklist. Even a low-tech solution can help advance the systems and processes for smaller agri-players and these can lead to more innovation as they scale up.
LOW TECH SOLUTION: Mulching helps plants survive extreme heat and more
Tech tools can improve compliance.
Given the stricter regulations for the fishing industry, fishermen must be able to provide traceability for the fish they catch and send to market. Augusto Zes Martinez III, chief operating officer of Futuristic Aviation and Maritime Enterprise (FAME) Systems, Inc. shared a technology that even small-scale fishermen can utilize, thereby giving them the opportunity to continue participating in the industry.
Using small form factor transponders and Global Positioning Systems (GPS), FAME provides solutions not only for monitoring and documenting their catch, but also for safety and communications at sea. Tech providers should look for these kinds of opportunities to support agribusinesses.
Building with Blockchain.
According to Hong Kong native and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Angus Yip, block chain may be the new kid on the block in terms of technology, but it is already showing potential for improving tracking and traceability of products, as well as providing levels of security for economic transactions. Basically, it is a digital database or ledger that can be shared and used collaboratively. Because the database is not stored in a single, central location, it is public, fully transparent, and easily verifiable.
E-commerce and online marketing.
Johan Boden, serial entrepreneur and logistics expert, says that the Internet is transforming traditional trading routes. Specialized websites like New Crop, Spice Jungle, and Nuts.com allow small-scale businesses instant connection to consumers. Traders, however, will continue to play a role in food and agriculture.
Technology will allow traders to provide better service solutions for suppliers, increasing productivity that can translate to higher benefits for farmers. Best of all, the Philippine market is ready: for example, the local Farmers Market in Cubao sells its wares via honestbee.
LEAF 2018 Speakers (L-R) Angus Yip, Johan Boden, and Johan Janssen.
The beauty of these technologies is that the end user does not need to understand all of the mechanics to use them effectively. Technology is a tool, and developers should always tailor to people’s needs.
In the words of a LEAF 2018 speaker, Johan Janssen, who co-founded open-source content management system Joomla: “Technology needs to adapt to the user; the user should not adapt to technology.”