Smart Agriculture Improves Productivity in Line with International Standards

Smart Agriculture Improves Productivity in Line with International Standards

YANG,CHAO-WEI(China Productivity Center Local Revitalization Business Group)

  The first industrial revolution uses water and steam as power sources. The second industrial revolution is mainly based on electricity for mass production. The third industrial revolution uses electronic and information technology (IT) to reduce human interference and enhance the automation of industrial manufacturing. Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, is a high-tech project proposed by the German government to improve the computerization, digitization, and intelligent manufacturing of the manufacturing industry. All related technologies and products are integrated, and customers and upstream and downstream suppliers are integrated in the business and value process. In terms of Bank 4.0, Bank 1.0 is the age in which the banks communicate with customers by e-mail. Bank 2.0 is the age of online banking, with the convenience of transactions. In Bank 3.0, mobile devices like cell phones and tablets are the platform where investment and wealth management are done. Bank 4.0 is the age of mobile payments and e-wallets, where an integrated service is provided to connect the banks with the consumers' life and communities. Taking the convenience store chains as an example, the POS system is used to collect and analyze the big data, so that the correlation between climate factors and consumers' purchasing behavior can be analyzed. With a heavy rain forecast, the store managers will place an order for commodities like umbrellas and lightweight raincoats or stock up on hot food products like steamed buns or oden. The application of smart technologies such as big data, Internet of Things, and cloud computing will improve productivity. Commercial services, including innovative services centered on consumers, omni-channel business operations, and smart logistic services that reduce manpower and material resources, must all aim at the future lifestyle to meet the demand of the consumers with customized innovative products and services.

  The author would like to describe the key points of agricultural productivity in the history of Taiwan's agricultural modernization. Taiwan had used cattle and manpower on farmland for hundreds of years until the 1950s, when cultivators were first introduced to improve farming efficiency. In the 1970s, tractors started to be used. Professional contract machine farming groups emerged, more than 400 of them at the peak, and over 1,000 tractors were imported every year then. Modernized agricultural product marketing started with the Taipei First Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market in 1974 and the Taipei Second Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market and the New Taipei City Fruits and Vegetables Wholesale Market in 1985, generally known as the “Three Markets”. The First and the second wholesale fruit and vegetable markets operated by Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation use a fully computerized auction system, in which the transaction prices are transparent in real time on the Internet, which also serves as the most important reference index for the prices in Taiwan. The transparency of prices in the modern wholesale system helps establish a fair pricing mechanism for fruit and vegetable transaction so farmers can evaluate their own production plans without being blindfolded by dealers. This is the Agriculture 1.0 period, in which the mechanization and a modernized auction system substantially increased the efficiency of production and marketing.

  Following the promotion of plastic structure cultivation in 1984, the government implemented the policy of "quality agriculture and upgraded agriculture", in which horticultural production under structure was a key feature. The national level research project of “A Study on the Horticulture Production under Structure and Technical Development” in 1986 was a milestone in plastic structure cultivation. It marked the interdisciplinary efforts of experts of crop physiology, agricultural engineering, agricultural machinery, environmental control technology, hydroponics, soil fertilizer, plant protection and equipment automation to jointly study the techniques of greenhouse materials and structures, nutrient solutions, cultivation media, environmental control technology, pest control, and plug seedling. By then, agricultural production is no longer climate dependent. All-year-round production is achieved in the facilities. Cropping index is raised with the utilization. Value-added technologies can be used to produce off-season crops. All this helps make an age of quality agriculture, the Agriculture 2.0.

  The information application systems of Taiwan's agriculture between 1970-1990 were mainly used in the public sector, for instance, on matters of the batching of fertilizer distribution, the export of mushrooms and asparagus, statistics on pig raising, and mortgage on agricultural machines. The functions later extended to agricultural technology, agricultural statistics, and administrative management. After the 1990s, independent systems for specific purposes were developed, such as agricultural product marketing information services, e-organization of agricultural organizations, international trade information services, and e-commerce of agricultural marketing. In recent years, the popularity of mobile devices and the utilization of the geographic information system (GIS) and the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system marked the stage of Productivity 3.0. Consumers now can simply scan the QRcode on the packaging of vegetables and fruits to get the production history and the information of the producer. The producers are held responsible for their products, and the consumers have more control on the food safety. The evaluation of agricultural products now covers both the visible appearance and price to the invisible intrinsic value.

  Smart agricultural production in the age of Agriculture 4.0 will integrate both the manufacturing industries and the service industries. A new intelligent agricultural production system will be built by using the Cyber-Physical System (CPS) and Internet of Things (IoT) to install a computer control system with monitoring and data collection capabilities and the real-time manufacturing execution system (MES) based on the automated field monitoring system-Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). These data are all uploaded to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, where the big data of consumers are analyzed to realize customization of the demand of customers. More timely and accurate production and scheduling of existing resources is made possible to reduce excessive cost and waste to have a solid lean production and marketing supply chain. The Agricultural Productivity 4.0 proposed by the Council of Agriculture has three themes: "promoting the development and application of smart agricultural technologies through the Smart Agriculture Alliance", "creating a diversified digital agricultural convenience service and an integrated application model with the value chain", and "creating a new producer/consumer interaction mode with human-friendly interactive technologies". The goal is to lead the transformation of six top-notch and 4 solid-base industries to enhance the momentum of Taiwan's agriculture for international competitiveness. The six top-notch industries include phalaenopsis, seedlings, mushrooms, agricultural facilities, aquaculture, and poultry (waterfowl). The four solid-base industries include rice farming, agricultural product traceability, fresh milk, and marine fishing. The annual output value is as high as NTD$247.4 billion.

  Faced with challenges of global climate change and the globalized competition, agriculture in Taiwan has the urgent needs for productivity increase and compliance with international standards. Agricultural production can no longer be operated as individual businesses. To stay a part of the global market, the agricultural value chain can only be enhanced as an ecological circle or industrial chain. Different marketing deployment and strategies need to be developed for different markets. Take the phalaenopsis industry for instance. Taiwan has a wide range of diversified seedlings, under the protection of the plant variety rights. The technologies of sensor control system and the Internet of Things can provide instant remote technical services to help promote the marketing all over the world. The large white flowers for business use in the Japanese market and the red flowers popular in the Chinese market for the lunar New Year are both sold in large quantities but with little variety in specifications. The medium-sized double-stemmed flowers serving the European market are of different colors. For another example, Taiwan's has high-quality deep processing industry of agricultural products. With the value added through the contract production and processing, many overseas raw materials turn into products “made in Taiwan” (MIT) and successfully marketed in the whole world.