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Deep Tech in Agriculture: An opportunity for Thailand’s agricultural industry

DIGITAL VENTURES August 22, 2018 11:06 AM

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Speaking of Thailand’s core industry, agriculture will surely of on the top of mind. This is because it is a manufacturing sector that nurtures the local population and becomes export products. Yet if we look further, we find that Thailand’s agriculture sector still encounters various obstacles, especially regarding low prices. Some view that technology can unlock and boost the growth of Thailand’s agricultural industry.  Today, Digital Ventures will share about this issue with innovation developers for Thai farmers, EasyRice and Kadyai.

 

Credit: alltech.com​

 

The overview of the global AgTech that is developing.

Today, AgTech or Agriculture Technology is playing a greater role both for farmers and consumers. In several countries, the development and application of AgTech to enhance agriculture is rather interesting.

EasyRice and Kadyai provided examples from the Netherlands and USA. In the Netherlands, they are integrating different technologies such as greenhouse plantation and IoTs. They control the condition, so they are able to produce higher yield when compared to the land proportion of other countries. In the USA, they are applying Data Science to increase quality and yield. Thus, they are able to better utilize the land, forecast the weather for better preparations, and even assess the plantation in order to prevent an oversupply.

 

Thailand’s AgTech overview and the path towards a value-based agriculture.  

Both teams view that Thailand needs to increase the “value” of agricultural products by using technology in order to keep up with the global competition in a knowledge-based economy. For this improvement to be sustainable, the technology should be developed on the basis of R&D. 

The Kadyai team mentions that the current agricultural innovation trend in Thailand is Smart Farming. It aims to improve agricultural processes by integrating various technologies such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Geo-Positioning, and Big Data. This is suitable for a large-scale agricultural industry country like Thailand.

The EasyRice team has acquired information from farmers and community rice mills. Also, they studied information from the Thai government and other influential global agricultural nations like the Netherlands who has succeeded in using technology to standardize their agricultural products. EasyRice supports AgTech as Thailand has abundant agricultural knowledge along with various research. If we are able to commercialize these findings, they will increase in economic value from the better quality and lower costs as well as less production process and lower capital.

 

Examples of Deep Tech in Thailand’s agricultural industry.

An example of Deep Tech application in the agriculture industry is using technology for product quality control. This is especially useful for products that are significant to the country and has a unique characteristic that requires extra care such as Thai rice.

 

 

EasyRice began with the research in rice quality examination and saw a business opportunity. This has led to a rice quality examination device that uses the image processing technology to examine rice grains. Also, an AI is used to determine the quality and improve the examination process. This technology will replace the conventional examination procedure that is done by a human which may risk errors and is unable to cover all areas. The process consumes about 5-10 minutes which is faster than the human process which consumes 1-2 hours per 1 rice sampling. Aside from the speed and fewer procedures for the mill, farmers will know their rice quality. This can help prevent fraud and the data can be used to improve the farming process.  

Another agricultural solution that is being developed in Thailand is providing precise and beneficial agricultural data to reduce pollution that can widely affect the Thai agricultural system.

Kadyai began from an attempt to solve the problem of maize plantation burning after harvest in Chiang Rai. This was the source of the smog problem in Chiang Rai and the northern part of Thailand. Maize has hard stems, so they are often burnt rather than buried. However, when asked why they prefer to plant maize, it is seen that farmers don’t have enough information as to what crop to plant to gain more income at which time of the year.

 

 

As a result, Kadyai utilized the Thai agricultural Internet of Things and Big Data research to provide solutions for the farmers. They began collecting information with satellites for Geotagging in the area, collecting weather data with internet-based devices, and collecting information about crops grown in each area. All the data are then processed by machine learning to advise the types of crops that can provide the higher yield and highest income.

 

The future and possibilities of AgTech in Thailand.

EasyRice sees positive possibilities because the quality standard that they use is similar to the criteria of the Ministry of Commerce which is among the world’s most detailed Thai rice quality standard. At the moment, there is no single tool in the world that can examine rice to match this standard. Thus, EasyRice is among the first developers who built an innovation for this standard. It is hoped that, in the future, the team can use the rice quality data and each mill’s production practices as a marketplace for bagged rice producers. Also, exporters can select the type and price that they prefer. All of which, will lessen costs for the mills and increase income as well as give farmers a transparent examination process.

Kadyai looks beyond the pollution problem as the solution can lead to harvest with a better yield. This is because it will help farmers know what crops to plant and at which season to gain the best yields. Moreover, they will plant at the right amount, which will also solve the problem of low-priced products. Also, this will increase income for farmers and benefit the country’s economy.

 

Support and contribution: Driving value for Thailand’s agricultural sector.

Speaking of support that they hope for, both EasyRice and Kadyai see that the government is a significant sector that will drive this issue. Supports are needed in three aspects in order to drive AgTech and solve Thailand’s agricultural sector’s problems.

  • Improve the necessary database for farming such as the environment and weather conditions or the amount and price of produces in each year. Such information still lacks precision and have not been digitalized. Such information can be used with machine learning to forecast and advice working processes for farmers. Improving the precision and readiness of the data collection process on the digital platform is important for AgTech.
  • Encourage knowledge in technology for farmers. A good sign is that today, farmers turn to technology for communication and information search. The next step for AgTech development is providing knowledge in technology concerning the production process. More importantly, we need to adjust the mindsets of farmers and related parties to understand the benefits of AgTech and how it can help them in each process.
  • Regulations that hinder technology commercialization. Although the government encourages Thai innovation development, yet a sustainable development is the commercialization process for the products and solutions. This requires the government to review regulations that don’t support this aspect and unlock some areas for researchers and entrepreneurs to try the products in the market.

 

These are insights from actual AgTech developers. The EasyRice and Kadyai team are part of U.REKA project which has been established to drive Deep Tech development for core industries in Thailand. Follow Digital Ventures for more updates regarding Thailand’s core industries development via Deep Tech.