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Status of Digital Agriculture in the Philippines

Writing for the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Christine Cudis wrote about the Digital Farmers Program that was initiated by the country’s Department of Agriculture (DA) for the next generation of farmers. The Program was succinctly described as “a series of training that aims to maximize technology for agricultural endeavors”.

Implemented by the Agricultural Training Institute, it is being pursued in partnership with Smart Communications in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, and Quezon. The training consists of three parts, namely, (1) Crowdsourcing, (2) Introducing Apps for Agriculture, and (3) Marketing.

During the 35th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, DA Secretary William Dar said that digital agriculture can further increase the productivity and incomes of farmers in the Philippines. The DA is accelerating a plan in the development of a Digital Road Map for the agriculture sector. The plan seeks to “promote and integrate precision agriculture and digital technology in local farming practices”. Moreover, the government agency envisions having “real-time access to ICT-driven crop production and risk and damage assessment information with the use of drones and dynamic cropping calendar”.

In a book entitled, “Saving Food: Production, Supply Chain, Food Waste and Food Consumption,” Tiziano Gomiero wrote a chapter that discussed precision agriculture (PA). Essentially, he said that PA is an ICT-based agricultural management system that addresses, among others, the geo-spatial differences of soil properties in farming areas in order to achieve the efficient use of farm inputs in crop production, and reduce operational costs. PA, which has been observed to be used in farm ventures since the 1980s, is also called “precision farming,” “site-specific crop management,” “prescription farming,” and “variable rate technology”.  Jasper Tallada of the Philippine Rice Research Institute reported that several PA technologies have been implemented in the Philippines such as those used by the Philippine Rice Information System, the Rice Crop Manager, smartphone Apps for rice production, drone technology, and IOT applications in farming.

Tamme van der Wal, a scientist at Wageningen University, listed five categories of precision agriculture technologies. These are satellite navigation that guides the use of farm machineries with the right precision; monitoring technology that connects the satellite to the in-field sensors; data management and analytics that can be shared and used across players in the value chain;  decision support tools that aid evidence-based decision-making at the field level; and robotization and the automation of various agricultural machinery. The issues raised by small-scale farmers are the investment and operating costs associated in the adoption of PA.

Louie A. Divinagracia


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