Unless they are farmers or agricultural workers themselves, most Filipinos don’t really realize just how complex an activity farming is, especially in the 21st century. There is so much more to farming than simply putting seeds on the ground and watering them. To achieve the industrial levels of yields and efficiency needed to meet the needs of today’s growing population, a staggering array of methodologies and technologies need to be harnessed.
Some of the technological innovations below are iterations and logical developments of agricultural techniques that have been developed since before written history. Others represent a quantum leap in the expanded capabilities they offer farmers. Here are some ways tech is driving Philippine agriculture in a different direction.
1. More Accessible Soil Testing
If there is one lesson most Filipinos might have learned in the past few years, it’s the importance of effective and affordable scientific testing in decision-making. Things are no different when it comes to agriculture, particularly when it comes to soil.
Fortunately, the median soil test price Philippines farmers have had to content with has continuously decreased over the years, putting this vital technology in the hands of most Filipino farmers. Soil testing allows farmers to make an educated decision on what crops to plant or the types and quantities of fertilizers to use, among many other things.
The ability to regularly and accurately test soil has not only led to better decisions on what and when to plant, but it has also reduced the indiscriminate application of fertilizers, allowing for lower costs per crop yield.
2. Data-Driven Farming
While they are slowly dying out, agricultural superstitions remain rife in Philippine agriculture. Though some of these beliefs and practices may have merit, they are often attributed as one of the many reasons Philippine agriculture lags behind in the ASEAN.
However, over the generations, data-driven farming has slowly and painfully made a foothold in regular local practice. Today, there is now much more faith in scientific methodology and analytics tools.
A large part of the reason Filipino farmers have kept up with rising demand is the use of tried and tested methodologies specific to their areas. There are also free resources, such as the Department of Agriculture’s Farmer’s Guide Map, that offer insights into the suitability of different areas for specific agricultural activities.
3. Automation and AI
Knowing to use scientific methods and analysis is one thing. Implementing these in the field is another challenge entirely. This is where automation and artificial intelligence come in.
Farming automation and mechanization are nothing new. However, the cost of implementation of different tools has gone down over the past generations. The most exciting and interesting field of automation to have affected farming is the application of artificial intelligence.
A large amount of calculated guesswork is needed for different areas of farming, from figuring out the perfect time to plant seeds to predicting the likely market prices and crop yields upon harvest. Predicting these consistently and accurately requires a good amount of data analysis to pull off.
Advanced farming AI draws from long and short-term weather patterns, market behavior, soil condition and inputs, geographical nuances, and other such complex data points in real-time, allowing farmers to make better decisions. These smart solutions are already being used to great effect in a growing number of local farms.
4. Climate Change Adaptation
Jumping off the previous point, the realities of climate change mean that old ways of doing things are not likely to be viable in the coming years. The Department of Agriculture has already made adapting to climate change a priority, with different technologies forming the core solutions.
Investment in selective breeding and genetic engineering as well as more conscientious crop selection through data analytics are just a few of the technologies farmers are already leveraging to mitigate the effects of climate change. Better information design and technology specially targeted at Filipino farmers is also being used to better share ideas that will help crop yields and efficiency while reducing total greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Better Post-Harvest Processing, Logistics, and Marketing through Big Data
The job of the farmer rarely ends at the farm. In most cases, the real struggle is ensuring that the crops realize their true value at the market. Depending on the crops and specific situations, farmers face an array of challenges after harvest, including during processing, storage, and transport, as well as marketing and sales.
The use of Big Data, that is, accessing and using all available data through information technology, has already changed the lives of Filipino farmers. Information technology has already made it easier to source the best and most affordable post-harvest processing and transportation options and has allowed farmers to communicate directly with local and global buyers. With IT infrastructure continuing to expand and data rates dropping, the harnessing of Big Data is going to become a fact of life for Filipino farmers very soon.
6. Agricultural Drones
Cheaper drones have taken Filipino farmers to new heights of productivity. The use of agricultural drones has grown significantly over the past decade, often used to help farmers engage in timely, data-driven farming.
Drones are already being used to quickly assess the condition of fields, cutting down on the required hours and labor requirements for this regular activity. They can cover more ground and more accurately map out problem areas than people on foot typically can.
Additionally, drones are also being used to keep farmers safe. While still expensive, pesticide-spraying drones are seeing increased use in the country. These drones offer several advantages over traditional manual methods, including better dispersion and less operator exposure to pesticides, thus helping farmers avoid one of the most common hazards on Philippine farms.
Technology Continues to Shape Philippine Farm Practices
While slightly delayed compared to other ASEAN contemporaries, Filipino farmers are more sophisticated and driven by the scientific method than ever, resulting in more tech being adopted in farms.
Even as more obvious differences like drones and expanded mechanization are making a difference, it’s the less obvious technologies that are making the most headway. With time, it’s likely that the application of contemporary AI, analytics, and Big Data will only see more use among farmers at all points of the agricultural supply chain.
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