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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Taiwan cultivates the future of smart agriculture



Besides being a technological hub, Taiwan also has a flourishing agricultural sector. Indeed, just in the first half of 2019, Taiwan's Council of Agriculture reported that the island republic has logged US$2.7B (nearly 140 billion pesos) worth of agricultural exports.

This number is only expected to grow as the nation recalibrates its agricultural strategy. Taiwan aims to optimize its farming techniques by using high-precision technology as it commits to the Agriculture 4.0 movement.

Agriculture 4.0, or precision farming, refers to a redefined farming system that integrates high-technology innovations. According to the World Government Summit, Agriculture 4.0 is a green agricultural revolution with science and technology at its heart. 

In an effort to sustain its growth, the Taiwanese government is currently raising its investments in Agriculture 4.0 with a pledge of up to $300 million by 2020.
To properly implement Agriculture 4.0, the following materials are needed: Solar technology for energy needs, lighting technology as different plants grow best at different wavelengths, drone technology for soil and water modeling purposes, Internet of Things for smart sensors, semiconductors to manufacture sensors, control software and data mining algorithms, and robotics to assist in planting and harvesting.

As a leading tech hub, Taiwan produces thousands of electrical engineers, semiconductor specialists, and robotics experts each year. The workforce then feeds into a supply chain of thousands of enterprises that create the components required in smart farming.

On the industry side, Taiwan is the second largest in the semiconductor industry, as well as a manufacturer for most of the sensors used in IoT and high-tech projects such as robotics, drones and solar technology. Companies have also developed specialized horticulture LEDs that can fine-tune wavelengths to increase plant growth and yield.

Solid examples of smart farming innovations include Owlting, a Taipei-based startup that supplies farmers with big data to optimize operations by monitoring rain, temperature and chemicals in the soil. Another innovation is LeBio's Spectral X, which is a new type of agriculture net that adjusts sunlight and RGB spectrum ratios to improve plant health and growth over time.

A number of Taiwan Excellence awardees also have a range of hi-tech autopilot helicopters made to help farmers. Robotics giant Thunder Tiger has the Thunder Hawk, which can spray pesticides across a hectare of land within eight minutes, greatly improving agricultural efficiency and reducing human and plant exposure to pesticides. Additionally, there's Alpas II, from Geosat Aerospace and Technology, another unmanned drone equipped with computer-controlled flight settings, as well as dual laser sensors, allowing precise and automatic spraying.
By introducing these digital innovations to the farming routine, the expected results are increased yields, reduced operating costs, reduced crop damage and minimized water, fuel and fertilizer usage.

These advantages will also flow to the consumer side as it ensures cheaper yet better quality produce for everyone.


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