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APO conference shows how Industry 4.0 can transform agribusiness

5 Sep 2019

Smart applications in agriculture create safer, greener, more productive systems.

Loosely referred to as components of Industry 4.0, terms like the “Internet of Things (IoT),” “big data analytics,” “smart machinery and robotics,” etc. make most people think of large factories or specialty SME manufacturers. They should think again. In response to aging farm workforces and rural labor shortages, advanced economies are utilizing those smart technologies and others to transform agriculture from the traditional labor-intensive model into a sophisticated, knowledge-based sector. For example, innovative sensing applications help the agrifood industry to be greener by saving water and energy while becoming more resilient in the face of climate change and natural disasters. Product tracing and verification through cloud-computing systems like blockchains and Quick Response codes ensure food safety and freshness for consumers.

The Council of Agriculture (COA) of the ROC has been creating new value chains in agriculture by focusing on production, sales, and service to create comprehensive agricultural consumption/service platforms, enhance product safety, and improve the overall efficiency and quantity of production. To showcase the COA’s efforts and their results, the APO and China Productivity Center organized the International Conference on Smart Agriculture and Food Safety Management in Taipei, 20–23 August 2019. The conference was funded by a special cash grant from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The specific objective of the conference was to disseminate knowledge of IoT applications, digital services, and information service platforms in agriculture; practical applications of data analysis and decision support systems; and trends in smart machinery and robotics. Increasing the brand visibility of the ROC’s unique smart agriculture technologies and services through strategic marketing and business counseling on product internationalization, upgrading agricultural productivity throughout the ROC, and steering the sector toward a new safe, efficient, low-risk era were also aims.

The 285 ROC government officers involved in promoting smart agricultural production, researchers in R&D agencies, smart agricultural technology service providers, and agribusiness product distributors and logistics operators who attended heard keynote presentations on the topics above, followed by detailed panel discussions. The three resource persons were Prof. Hiroshi Uehara, Faculty of Systems Science and Technology, Akita Prefectural University, Japan; Sub-manager/Specialist of Smart Agriculture Kouki Nakasaka, Industry Department, OPTiM, Japan; and Principal Applied Scientist Kenneth Tran, Microsoft Research, USA. They also accompanied participants on the site visits to Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, the Department of Bio-Industrial Mechatronics Engineering of National Taiwan University, and a series of precision farming and agribusiness operations to offer explanations and insights.

Based on their action plans drawn up during the conference, participants working in different agriculture subsectors will be expected to integrate the knowledge gained to offer multiple extension-type programs. Those programs will contribute to increased efficiency in farming and agrifood marketing, while upgrading food safety management practices.

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