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When agriculture meets information technology - A roundup of the latest user-friendly scientific breakthrough
RFID – Best Management Tool Ever
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which has already proven to be extremely effective in tracking and identifying people and products for logistic purposes, can be applied to the agricultural sector in two ways – production management (from tracking growth and reproduction records to integrating transportation information) and inventory management (from boosting operational efficiency to minimizing loss and damages).
Dairy farmers traditionally had to rely on
eyesight to identify the livestock tags and ear marks on their cattle herds,
swine litters and sheep flocks. Information regarding livestock growth and
reproduction were often recorded by hand as well, adding to the possibility of documentation
errors when the animals proliferate and multiply. Implanting livestock with a
RFID-enhanced microchip or ear tag would not only enable instant
identification, it would also preserve a wide array of individual information
such as body type, growth development, breeding lineage and lactation quality.
The accurate collection of livestock data would greatly facilitate vaccination
measures, provide better insight on hereditary characteristics and biological
development and boost managerial efficiency, all thanks to RFID technology.
GIS – Mapping the World
Combining geographic landmarks, geological characteristics and scientific knowledge, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology digitalizes and synthesizes the information to create a visually engaging and spatially detailed map. Automotive navigation systems, Google Map and various smartphone mapping software are all based upon GIS technology. The system has also become a handy tool for surveying landscapes, for it can quickly capture vast amounts of spatial data that are required for further analysis and understanding of the nation’s territory.
The Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) of COA (Council of Agriculture) has been developing the Sensitive Crops Survey Project since 2008, in which anyone can determine the optimal crop density by scanning a field with a GIS-enabled personal digital device (PDA). The program has already completed the calculations for cash crops such as garlic, onions, oranges, peanuts, pineapples, pomelos and guavas – farmers can now count on the technology to monitor crop density and to boost their harvest yields. The Soil and Water Conservation Bureau’s (SWCB) Mudslide Prevention and Emergency Response System also tapped into the power of GIS technology by accurately mapping out all potential or high-risk disaster regions across the nation. If a natural disaster strikes, residents of identified danger zones can receive the latest updates through the Web platform and escape to their nearest emergency rescue shelter by following the SWCB’s instructions.
WSN – Your Surveillance Buddy
A wireless sensor network (WSN), which combines wireless internet and sensory devices with a data recorder and transmitter, is easily applicable to many different fields. Manufacturers can use it to monitor factory air quality, constructionists can use it capture building measurements and agriculturalists can use it to remotely observe crop conditions.
The WSN’s strength lies with its surveillance capabilities and autonomous sensory features. In terms of agricultural applications, the network is capable of gathering and analyzing microclimate data (such as moisture levels in a given patch of soil, the pH value of the water used and the degree of light exposed to a certain plant). The network then uses the data to optimize farming conditions by calculating the required levels of fertilization and irrigation as well as identifying plants that need pruning. A WSN can even stand guard against pest invasions; in the case of an approaching swarm of oriental fruit flies, the network sends an emergency signal to notify the farm owner of impending danger.
Cloud Computing – Integrated Services at Your Command
Cloud computing, which utilizes the internet to provide remote services to distant users, has been aided by the proliferation of smartphones and information technology in recent years. The future of cloud computing remains rosy as the world seeks to create added-value products based on its remote storage and retrieval capabilities.
Accessible via an internet connection on a computer or smartphone, the Council of Agriculture’s (COA) Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability System (TAFT) is an online databank that provides extensive consumer information. Users can trace agricultural products back to their producers or manufacturers, as well as flag and request the total recall of any products deemed unfit for human consumption. TAFT, along with the national cattle pedigree program scheduled for the near future, are both measures enacted by the COA to safeguard consumer rights. On the production side, the COA offers the cloud-based Agricultural Producer Resource Management System, where farmers can input and keep track of expenses, sales, inventory levels, total salary paid to hired hands, quarterly production quantity and other accounting figures.
Given that integration is the key concept of cloud computing, the COA has an entire array of online services to offer to the agricultural sector – specialized production and ranch management, agricultural trade and logistics, farmer’s almanac and planting time tables, to name a few. By making the wealth of information public through cloud computing, the COA hopes to keep the nation’s farmers informed of the latest changes in the environment, market prices and economic trends, which will help balance domestic supply and demand. With all these handy services and practical information at hand, the nation’s agricultural sector is one step closer to becoming healthier, less complicated and more superior than ever before!