How technology can save our agriculture

Bangladesh has a long history of agriculture and farming has been an important part of us ever since our history. Even the Bengali Calendar itself was influenced by the solar agricultural cycle. Up to this day, the agriculture sector remains to be one of the most vital engines for our country’s economy.

In the FY2019-20 budget, the govt has allocated Tk 16,985 crore for the agriculture sector, which is about 7.6 per cent higher than the previous year. But, the plight of the farmers continues as the production cost goes higher and crop prices fall. 

Add to that is another major problem, climate change, which is going to give a fatal blow to our agriculture sector in the coming years if we are not prepared to tackle it.

With the government’s earnest effort to revamp the sector and increase the production rate to meet the country’s food demand as well as export the products to add revenue to our economy, the overall output from the sector is declining due to various factors. This is a serious concern for a country like ours which depends heavily on agriculture.

The solution

The solution lies in addressing the core problems and eliminating the barriers which are mostly tied to policymaking. Increasing the budget or providing loans and subsidies have proved to be futile attempts in the past to resolve the farmers’ distress.

The farmers are begging for a fair price for their crops as they are hardly managing to make a good profit in the end.

This is possible to solve if we can eliminate multiple layers of middlemen who intercede between the farmers and the end-customers, ultimately raising the product price multiple times as the number of middlemen grows.

A problem like this can be resolved by making use of modern network technology. The problems caused by climate change can also be greatly diminished by using advanced biotechnological solutions. As Bangladesh aims to become a developed country by the next 20 years, it is important to take the help of modern technology to implement the new effective solutions.

Electronic Trading Platform

A modern concept that is built upon the internet connectivity and aimed at making trade easier and fairer between the farmers and the buyers. An Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) can exist in Mobile Apps and it can help reduce the number of middlemen in the whole process.

A farmer can directly sell his crops to different buyers regardless of his location and all of the transaction histories will be recorded in the server; bringing the transaction data of the entire country under the close monitor of the higher authority who can impose a minimum price for each type of crop. The ETP will also ensure better market discovery and less reliance on the local middlemen who exploit the farmers. 

Agriculture sensors

Plants have different requirements for their growth, and the requirements vary from species to species. There are various useful sensors that record important data to be used for designing optimal growth conditions for plants. Sensors such as optical sensor, electrochemical sensor, a mechanical sensor, dielectric soil moisture sensor, airflow sensor etc. can provide data about soil quality, soil nutrient level, pH, air permeability, yield monitoring, weed mapping, salinity mapping and many more. Softwares can use this combined information for predictive analysis, helping farmers optimize the growth condition by applying fertilizer, irrigation or pesticides as necessary.

As the world is sleepwalking towards the climate catastrophe, the seasonal temperature and the weather will go through massive change. In order to save the crops and to expect high yield, farmers will need modern equipment and machinery to fight any possible crisis. 

Automation

According to the recent reports, farmers expressed their concern over the lack of availability of workers willing to work on the field. And the ones who are working are demanding high wages. This, in return, is raising the farmers’ overall expenditure for crop production. Automation can play a big role here by eliminating the need for the human workforce and thus reducing the production cost.

Although this may sound counter-intuitive for Bangladesh, the growing trend of leaving the rural areas and forsaking the farming practice among the villagers mean that automation is the only viable solution should we want to save the remaining farmers from going extinct. Developed countries have already moved to automation and are using self-driving tractors, harvesting robots, automated seeders and drones.

Drone has become a popular tool among the farmers as it can quickly identify problem zones in a field by multispectral image and infrared analysis. A drone can also be used for dusting fields, blowing waters or crop surveying.

Biotechnology

Agricultural Biotechnology or Agritech is part of the modern biotechnological solution where advanced genetic changes are worked on. Plants are modified at their genetic level so that they can resist pest, drought etc. and provide increased yield.

Techniques such as mutagenesis, RNA interference, transgenics, molecular breeding and many more are used to selectively modify a plant towards the desired characteristic; this in return makes the plant resistant to disease, insects and tolerant to temperature, herbicide. Agritech can also increase the nutritional content in crops and reduce the amount of toxicity in plants.

The Genetically Modified Organism or GMO plants are available for purchase and consumption in the United States under the safety testing and regulations of government agencies. Despite high concerns from various organizations, scientists have given green lights to various GMO foods as safe for consumption. So, farmers can use high-quality seeds, GMO plants as well as biofertilizers to increase the amount of crop yield in his field.

Vertical farming

The world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and about two-thirds will live in the cities. In the absence of speedy transportation service, the cities will suffer from the imbalance of fresh food supply versus food demand. Vertical farming is a fairly modern concept that intends to grow massive amounts of foods inside the concrete buildings.

Automation and software technology carefully control the amount of LED light, airflow and nutrients fed to the plants that ultimately produce premium grade foods without requiring any type of sunlight, soil, fertilizers or pesticide.

Vertical farming also ensures that farming can run without a scratch regardless of seasonal weather pattern. As growth conditions are highly optimized and the yield is greatly enhanced, foods are ready to be sold as per customer’s demand in 24/7.