Institute to support the Smart Farmer campaign

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Mr Sakchai said the agricultural sector lacks the use of high technology to support production.

High value-added products have not only aroused the interest of manufacturers as a means of generating more income, but also of farmers wanting a higher income.

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) Agribusiness Institute is working with the government to train a new generation of farmers who can combine modern technologies with marketing plans to better sell their products, which helps in turn to drive the Thai economy.

“The institute has collaborated with many public and private agencies to help Thai farmers develop their skills to become smart farmers,” said FTI Vice President Sakchai Unchittikul, president of the institute, referring to the government’s Smart Farmer initiative.

The institute became an FTI unit in 2018, with the aim of improving Thai agriculture through the development of R&D and creating opportunities for earning more income in the upstream, middle and downstream agro-industrial sector. .

Farmers can use the knowledge as a springboard to modernize their agriculture and supply their products to factories for development as future food and even space food, he said.

MODERN AGRICULTURE

A new form of management that the institute is promoting in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is the development of precision agriculture.

Scheduled to be completed between 2021 and 2023, the Precision Agriculture program uses technology to increase crop yields and encourages farmers to band together for large-scale production for better production and marketing plans.

“This is a pilot project now covering 2 million rai of agricultural land,” Sakchai said.

Producers of corn, sugarcane, palm trees, rubber and tomatoes are the target groups of the program, which is expected to help participants improve agriculture, sales and logistics, he said.

In the next step, the institute and the ministry want to expand the area of ​​agricultural land and increase the types of agricultural products to cover rice, holy basil, basil and Thai herbs, Sakchai said.

The FTI believes agriculture will be a key sector in boosting the Thai economy, which has been limited by the impact of the pandemic since 2020, he said.

However, more effort is needed to develop agricultural techniques and improve marketing management to ensure that farmers can earn adequate income, instead of struggling to cope with low crop prices.

“It’s great that Thailand has already implemented a policy to improve the agricultural sector and turn local farmers into smart farmers,” Sakchai said.

Thai agriculture is generally based on old school techniques, with many farmers unfamiliar with “Agriculture 2.0” including the use of chemicals to feed crops and eradicate diseases and pests, he said. -he declares. These farmers are also trying to increase crop yields by hiring more workers.

Thailand’s agricultural sector faces structural challenges caused by a lack of manpower and the need for better agricultural management to serve agribusiness, Sakchai said.

In view of the rapid digitization of society, the government is promoting the Thailand 4.0 program, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which focuses on advanced technology and high-level services.

Attempts to raise farmers to Agriculture 4.0 level are part of that agenda, he said. This includes helping farmers get used to technologies such as drones to help them carry out agricultural work.

The Internet of Things and smart agriculture can also be used to develop the agricultural sector.

“Smart agricultural technology will enable farmers to make better use of resources and plan their agriculture,” Sakchai said.

FEEDING THE FUTURE

To add value to agricultural products, farmers are encouraged to develop them into foods of the future, which include organic agricultural products and alternative proteins which are meat substitutes.

“We want Thai farmers to practice organic farming to make chemical-free products in order to earn more income,” he said.

The demand for organic vegetables, considered healthier, is increasing because consumers are more health conscious. This is a new business opportunity for farmers, Mr Sakchai said.

On June 19 of this year, the FTI suggested to the government to make “agricultural security” a national agenda item to improve and modernize the agricultural sector.

Thailand also has high potential to develop alternative plant-based proteins, including grains and seaweed, as well as insects, he said.

The total value of future foods in the global market was US $ 203 billion in 2020 and is expected to increase by 51% to reach US $ 306 billion by 2025.

“We need to take advantage of our agricultural sector to develop the future food industry and use it to jointly stimulate the economy and help Thailand break out of the middle income trap,” Sakchai said.

This means that the agricultural and industrial sectors must raise production standards and that farmers must learn new technologies, he said.

“One of the structural problems of the agricultural sector is the lack of use of high technologies to support the production system,” said Mr. Sakchai.

FOOD AREA

One type of future food is space food, which is produced and processed to nourish astronauts during their space missions.

Four Thai students and a college professor formed a team to participate in the Deep Space Food Challenge, hosted by the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration in October this year. They proposed a project to develop proteins derived from insects in space food.

Insects have become a common agricultural commodity in Thailand and there are many insect farms in the country, including cricket and grasshopper farms, Sakchai said.

Crickets and grasshoppers have the potential to become new food products, as insects are a more sustainable source of protein than meat, he said.

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