Denny Lee（China Productivity Center Agricultural Innovation Department I ）
Smart Agriculture has been thriving and robust in recent years, whereas the silhouette of farmers with conical bamboo hats and hoes on hands working hard in the field is still many people's impression on the traditional agriculture. However, with the proven technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), 5G wireless technology and Internet of Things (IoT), the contemporary and even future farming pattern has progressively developed beyond imagination, which is widely divergent from the traditional agricultural profile. This progress in agriculture is definitely over the general impression of the public. Even the farmers may not know well the variety of tools available in current market for application to their working practice. In light of the above, it is essential in this article to introduce the information tools or platforms developed by agricultural institutions and units for farmers and agricultural enterprises, aiming to level up practitioners to smart farmers for running agribusiness easily.
TARI Information Platform System
Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute(TARI), serving as one of the leading agriculture research units, has devoted hundred years to upgrading the domestic agricultural technologies and to solving the technical bottleneck problem in agriculture field. Moreover, TARI has successfully developed multiple sets of information platform system, targeting widely data collection from various agricultural investigation schemes and experiments with the interpretation of agriculture experts added. These platforms are provided to general publics and agriculture practitioners for utilization, which currently contain the followings:
- Soil Database System
Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute has long been investigating the soil status all over the island. To further widen the utilization of the soil information collected, TARI stacked the graphical materials of soil survey on cadastral maps and debris flow information and related images via Geographic Information System(GIS), and combined the professional interpretation of experts and diversified theme maps, such as soil properties distribution management map, soil fertility map and soil microorganism. The above enables users to further search and utilize the information that interests them and by this way, the land properties of user's interest can be well leaned. Users can proceed with land planning and utilization accordingly, such as arranging the best-fit crops planting zone, finding out the soil area for pollution prevention and setting up the strategy for soil fertility improvement. This system can help farmers and agricultural enterprises target the appropriate areas for crops cultivation and establish reasonable ways for proper fertilizer application, thereby reducing the waste of resources.
- Consolidated Information Platform for High-quality Crops
This platform consolidates abundant domestic agricultural database and enhances the horizontal communication and linkage among various information databases. With the resource databases integrated, diversified crop cultivation materials (such as variety selection, meteorologic data and pest control and diagnosis, etc.) will be available on this platform. The producers can proceed with one-stop searching here by indexing appropriate information based on their demands/needs and then the system will automatically link to each corresponding database. Thereafter, the dynamic and instant information will be fed back to producers, and the agriculture practitioners can find the material of need without spending much time looking it up and further apply it to production end.
- Early Warning Platform for Crops Disasters
nowadays climate change and extreme weather happening frequently, agricultural producers extremely need a set of system to assist them in dealing with the weather changes. This platform operates in a way of sending early warning alert according to the weather forecast of Central Weather Bureau. It is available for APP version so that farmers can catch the timeliest disaster messages via cell phone for taking the most accurate and prompt measures to cope with disasters. This will minimize damages on crops, assuring the yield and maintain the quality as well. In addition to the functions of agricultural disaster early warning and instant alert, the platform also provides information on climate-related activities, timely observation data from agrometeorological stations, weather prediction in each specific district and the latest disaster status. Furthermore, this platform integrates the diversified historical data, such as Taiwan's agricultural climate pattern, meteorological disaster occurring rate and common disaster heatmaps, crops calendar with disaster prevention function, 24 solar terms and achievements of agriculture and forestry disaster prevention plan. These adequate agrometeorological and disaster-preventive information allows farmers to further apply it in planning of crop calendar.
E-Agriculture Management via APP
At present, the dilemma in the domestic farmland and field management caused mostly by a deferred paper recording process after finishing farm works, which is untimely and inaccurate with even very high error rate. As a result, the farmers or agribusinesses are unable to effectively manage production process and farming resources (including hired-labor schedule arrangement, farming machinery and material utilization status and so on). Considering this dilemma, the agricultural departments of the government and private IT companies co-developed the APP for e-agriculture management, which contains the following functions:
- Farmland Visualization
The visualized farmland information is displayed in the APP system by layers with different colors. This helps farmers be able to grasp the status and distribution of farmlands and facilitate the farmland management. In the meantime, the system also integrates the functions of mobile identification and patrol inspection, which enhance the performance audit efficiency of agricultural enterprises and enable farmers to have a grasp of the laborer working situation, production return, working hours, etc. Farmers also reduce the duplication of resources and precisely manage and control the production cost to achieve higher production efficiency.
- Timely Recording of Field Works
This APP turns the complicated table sheet into a user-friendly check list based on the working steps. Farmers can record the farm work easily and accurately monitor the production process.
- Formulation of Production Plan
In addition to the farmland and field work recording function, this APP also assists the agricultural enterprises and farmers in formulating the production plans, such as cultivation schedule, working items of each step, tips for tasks. It also integrates the pest control and fertilizing records with which the cultivation work can be completed on time. Furthermore, the system further counts the estimated crop yield, by which producers can set up the harvesting quantity and time, thereby keeping the balance between production and sales and increasing farmers' income.
- Traceability Link
The system connects the traceability, QR code and organic information websites to provide the function of fast upload of cultivating records to the traceability system, which simplifies the traceability data input procedure for farmers and allows farmers to focus more on the production end.
The above briefly introduced information platforms and tools are developed by the domestic agricultural departments. However, there is still room for improvement of functions, such as less user-friendly interface and poor data integration, etc. If the problems can be solved in the future, and with the increasingly mature artificial intelligence technology, it will bring about an opportunity for next wave of changes in Taiwan’s agriculture.