Agriculture plays a key role in the strengthening of South Asian economies. As per the data generated by World Bank, agriculture contributed about 10% of the GDP in the year 2020. When talking about the countries like Myanmar and Cambodia, agriculture made about 20% of the National GDP.
Since agriculture is a major industry, it offers employment to numerous people. According to the survey conducted in the year 2019, it created 35% of the total opportunities in Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.
The agricultural industry is not running smoothly because several challenges have emerged. Climate change is one of the major challenges facing these days. In Southeast Asia, it is doing no good due to extreme weather circumstances. The climate disasters were so destructive that Asian Development Bank suffered a loss of USD 21 billion due to crop and livestock production losses.
The situation even worsened with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It led to disruptions in the global supply chain along with the shortage of agricultural labor. In Southeast Asia, the pandemic caused a 3.1% reduction in the agricultural production volume as per the data drawn in 2020. This ultimately led to a 1.4% decrease in the overall GDP of the region.
Like any other field of life, the agricultural sector is also undergoing a significant technological transformation. Farmers have started using drones to increase their crop yields and improve farming practices. Smartphones are used for harnessing artificial intelligence so that crops could be managed even more efficiently. These and many other technological practices have proved beneficial for farmers in increasing their income and handling the farming operations more efficiently.
MimosaTEK is a noteworthy technology being used in Vietnam. It has made the agricultural operations more precise with the sensors and could-based devices that better monitor the crops. The technologies come equipped with a smart irrigation system that makes it possible for farmers to monitor weather conditions. This way, they get to irrigate their crops by using the amount of water smartly. After the success of this technology in Can Tho province, the government is planning to scale up the program in the rest of the areas.
Agritech is also believed to play a favorable role in the agricultural sector of Thailand. Government is training and encouraging the farmers to use smart farming practices for better agricultural outcomes. Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency is playing a major role in digitizing the agricultural sector by awarding the farmer’s community Agritech grants ranging between THB 10,000 and THB 300,000. This investment by the government led numerous farmers to use drones for spraying pesticides and planting seeds.
The drone technology is used in other parts of Southeast Asia for several other tasks like disaster management, crop mapping, weather forecasting, and crop damage assessment. Paladrone is a worth mentioning drone used in Malaysia. It offers pest management solutions to oil palm farmers of Malaysia. Moreover, it enables the precise spraying of pesticides. Doing so saves farmers from toxic exposure to pesticides.
With the provided details, we agree that digitizing the agricultural sector is crucial in tackling the challenges that have emerged due to climate change.
The adoption of smart farming can be a challenge itself for small farmers. To address this hurdle, Deloitte and the World Economic Forum (WEF) are working on a multi-year partnership. That would provide adequate support for the execution of the 100 million Farmers Program. The program aims to make farmers adopt digital farming practices for the global transition of the food production industry.
Global climate change has also drawn our attention to the importance of urban agriculture. According to the report generated by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) on Singapore’s Agrifood tech ecosystem, the urban farms have proved to be more resilient and secure food system platforms. That is the very reason Singapore’s food production organizations set up an Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund of about SGD 60 million (USD 44.4 million) in 2021. That significantly encouraged the farmers to opt for tech-based farming practices.
We can make our agricultural sector more robust through urban farming. It would eliminate our reliance on food imports. Urban agriculture would enable the farmers to grow crops of all sorts on annual bases. The technologies like hydroponics can be the answer to problems associated with soil-based diseases and pests. Moreover, it can help increase the crop yield to a noticeable level.
Urban farms can better optimize and control growing conditions of higher yields with the use of digital technologies like IoT, LED lighting, and sensors. In this regard, a Singaporean Agritech startup Sustenir provides favorable evidence. These farms can achieve a yield that is 13 times higher than the local farms.
The selling of the crops is also made easy for farmers. They have started to use e-commerce platforms to sell their products directly to urban consumers. Urban Tiller is a company that delivers fresh crops and food products immediately after the harvest. There are also e-grocery platforms that enable buyers to purchase fresh produce from the farms.
Southeast Asia: The profiting market for Agritech
From the history of farmers and consumers that were very quick to shift to Agritech, it became evident that Southeast Asia is the profiting market for Agritech. As per the data drawn by AgFunder in 2021, the employment of Agritech raised USD 51.7 billion, almost double that of the previous year.
The use of technology in food production bought about tremendous results. The other areas of the food industry can also use digital technology. These areas can include food distribution and processing. So far, Asia is the leading global food marketer. Consumers would spend even more in this sector to make the future of the food industry even better.