Agriculture meets modern technology

Modern technology is making its way to farms, and rightfully so, as we are seeing more farms equipped with tools used to better facilitate activities - from moisture sensors on the field, to finding the market rate for crops via a text message. The development of these agricultural technologies, also known as 'agritech' is crucial to help empower farmers, particularly when it comes to their decision-making process.

One of the projects being developed by Crops For the Future to cater the needs and challenges faced in agriculture is a central database system which allows farmers, researchers and the general public to obtain knowledge on a variety of crops – at just a click of a button. CropBASE, CFF’s research programme which integrates qualitative and quantitative knowledge into decision support systems, has compiled over 9 million data on crops which is currently being integrated into different projects. One of which is the 'crop selection tool', designed for use locally in Malaysia as well as globally.

The crop selection tool is a decision-making tool that harnesses the power of integrated agricultural knowledge on crops. It offers farmers a glance into crops that would best suit their land, by suggesting a selection of crops which can grow well during different seasons – depending on which part of the globe they are in. Parameters that can be taken into consideration includes: local climate and soil information, highest yield, highest income and nutrient content. For example, a farmer in Kelantan, Malaysia might have idle lands available but might not know what to grow. In just a few clicks on the CropBASE website or mobile app, he will be able to know which crop performs well in that area. The same steps would be applied by a farmer in Kenya. The crop selection tool also provides a two-way communication between farmers and experts to exchange information on crop growth challenges. It has shown positive feedback from extension workers and farmers, as a pilot project was established in the region of Bera, Pahang in Malaysia. 

Parameters that can be taken into consideration includes: local climate and soil information, highest yield, highest income and nutrient content.

Dr Ebrahim Jahanshiri, CropBASE Research Programme Coordinator, highlights the important role technology plays in the future of agriculture saying, “agriculture and food production will be challenged heavily in the future, therefore transformative innovations in farming systems, education, policies, marketing and communication is the need of today. Information technology can be the source of many innovations in agriculture.”

Digital technologies are providing new opportunities for farmers to maximise yields and reduce the amount of time taken for decision-making. Not only that, but other industries can benefit from the optimisation and development of these innovative solutions. Crop failure leads to less food production and in turn affects hunger, therefore we must think of innovative solutions that can aid and empower our smallholder farmers, while ensuring an increase in agricultural productivity – therefore technology will play a crucial role in sustaining the future of agriculture.