[Vol.19] Farming Meets ICT
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- Registration Date : 2016-09-29
The world’s population has now reached 6.5 billion, 0.3 billion of which are experiencing starvation. According to UN, the globe will see a fast population increase and reach 9.1 billion by 2050, which is 1.5 times greater than the current figure. With the expectation that the depletion of food resource will be accelerated, countries put their heads together to find solutions for food shortage, and “Smart Farm” is now arising as one of the possible solutions.
More demands, smaller labor force―Smart Farm will feed the world
Smart Farm involves an intelligent farming system, which is remotely or automatically controlled through the combination of farming and information and communication technology (ICT). Internet of Things (IoT) technology measures and analyzes the temperature, humidity, sunlight, CO2, and soil status. It also operates control devices to create a suitable cultivation environment based on the measurements.
Farming and technology have begun to go hand in hand because of the declining and aging farming population. While the demand for food is increasing, the labor force of farming is shrinking. Farmers and engineers have tried to devise a system to farm with smaller labor force, and the Smart Farm technology was a result of such efforts. The population of farmers aged 65 or above are 6 times more than young farmers who are 35 or below in the US, while in Japan, the average age of farmers is 67 years old. Korea is not an exception. The National Statistical Office said in its report that the population engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishery decreased last year by 16 percent from 5 years ago (3.499 million to 2.924 million). Among them, those who are in their 20s to 40s barely exceeded 30 percent, showing a steep decline. Meanwhile, those in their 50s and 60s also decreased by around 10 percent. The expert consensus is that Korea is in definite need of infrastructure for the Smart Farm system as it is facing a decline in grain self-sufficiency rate, income stagnation of farmers, intense climate change, as well as farming population issue.
Shedding sweat becomes old-fashioned: The changing landscape of farming
Farming powerhouses including the US has already been actively utilizing Smart Farm as a solution for securing food resource in the future. “Agriport A7” located in Noord Holland, Netherlands is the best example of Smart Farm technology application. The high-tech glass greenhouse complex sits in a site that extends a 100-hectare area. Fruits and vegetables, such as paprika, are transported to its largest importer, Germany, or shipped to countries all around the world through the country’s largest port in Rotterdam.
In the park, Barendse-DC―a farm that grows paprika and tomato―uses a range of sophisticated sensors to identify the temperature, humidity, moisture, and nutritional status of crops. At the peak of the harvest season, just a handful of farmers maintain their positions in the greenhouse, and all processes other than those are handled by the Smart Farm system. The computer-controlled smart farming system adjusts the cultivation environment with a much smaller labor force.
Garden products occupies 39.4 percent of all the agricultural produce of the Netherlands. The country is gaining ground in the export market as it produces increasingly more high value-added garden products like tomato and paprika. It is the second largest agricultural exporter after the US, and its garden produce account for 24 percent of the world trade.
In the past, a farmer need to go through several trials and errors for years to gain expertise. Those days are gone. With the Smart Farm system, anyone can grow crops using big data. The sweat shedded by farmers is now replaced by machinery.
Initiatives for the development of a Korean-style Smart Farm system
Now, the Korean government is leading the spread of the Smart Farm technology across the country. It selected ICT-based advanced farming as one of its six strategic industries and puts focused efforts to establish a Smart Farm system. It drew up a plan to provide 8,000 Smart Farm devices to farms to create an economic ripple effect amounting to KRW 5.7 trillion as well as to solve the food security issue.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs came up with a plan called “ICT Convergence Modeling Project for Agriculture and Food” in 2010 to help some farms introduce the Smart Farm system as an exemplary case. The ministry announced its plan to provide Smart Farm solutions and services to facility horticulture farms that are the equivalent of 4,000 hectares, 700 stockbreeding farms, and 600 fruit farms.
Mobile communication businesses also presented plans for supporting the Smart Farm system. In 2014, SK Telecom built sensors measuring temperature and humidity as well as a smart farming system connected to smart phones at 100 PVC greenhouse farms in Sejong-si. The company also provides a 8,264 m2-shared farm site, “Dure Farm,” as a smart farming education center. KT established a 1,800 ㎡ farm equipped with a smart farming system for growing mushrooms in Jinju, Gyeongnam Province in collaboration with farming firm Genbio. LG UPlus supplies services to connect Smart Farm solutions through its LTE networks for 100 farms in Gangwon, Gyeong-gi, and Chungcheong.
Korea will give an impetus to its efforts for developing a Korean-style Smart Farm technology that best suits the domestic farming environment and status to propel the country to join the ranks of advanced farming countries. The Rural Development Administration will regularize ICT devices and parts for the easy integration and maintenance of Smart Farm systems as well as standardize the technology to lower its market price.
The image of farmers shedding sweat as they did manual jobs are now gone with the advent of computer- or smartphone-controlled farming. It is now the time to change the landscape of farming with the spread of Smart Farm technology.