For Bangladesh, how to secure maximum production by utilizing the land we own has become a major subject for deliberation in this tumultuous period when the entire world is facing an unprecedented economic crisis created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Amid the predicaments, all governments are chalking out numerous plans to minimize the losses and ensure food security for their residents. Bangladesh is no different. But the burning question is: How will the country deal with the crisis? Does the country possess the capacity to update its current traditional agricultural practices? Can it modernize its agriculture?
The straightforward answer is: Yes, we have the capacity. But there is no alternative to learning how to grow food in the ‘smartest way’. Unfortunately, it is something our farmers have been failing to achieve for years.
So, despite having an abundance of resources, we are failing in maximizing production at a time when different countries across the world are taking bumper yields home by leveraging advanced technology.
Lacking knowledge of modern agriculture and inaccessibility to required facilities on the usage of pesticides and fertilizer, along with a lack of know-how on diseases of crops, further contributes to our woes.
In the given circumstances, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has set the goal to make agriculture more productive and the farmers smarter in an attempt to tackle the looming food crisis and remove the prolonged woes of farmers. For her, maximizing production and being smarter are inextricably related to each other.
That’s why, apart from urging her countrymen not to waste food and bring every inch of land under cultivation in a bid to protect the country from the possible food crisis, the premier continues to encourage many initiatives under the ‘Smart Agriculture’ scheme to establish digital connectivity between farmers and agriculture.
Among them are Krishoker Janala, Digital Crop Calendar, Agriculture Data Dashboard, and Smart Agriculture Tech Lab—four digital platforms and initiatives that will bring revolutionary changes in the country’s food production, facilitating necessary information and resources to farmers and policymakers.
These platforms will help farmers along with private and public stakeholders, set future action plans on various farming techniques to increase crop yields and reduce costs.
Let’s take a look at those platforms
A mobile application that will help the farmers to find information pertaining to agriculture at their fingertips, they would no longer need to travel miles away to meet the agriculture extension officers to discuss their problems in the field. To get immediate solutions, they will have to upload photographs of damaged crops on the app instead. It will save their time and help them identify problems easily.
A government study shows nearly 80
per cent of farmers are unaware of the
diseases of crops and the attacks
of different kinds of pests
in their cropland, resulting
in the damage of yields
A government study shows nearly 80 per cent of farmers are unaware of the diseases of crops and the attacks of different kinds of pests in their cropland, resulting in the damage of yields. Besides, many farmers cannot stop by the agriculture extension offices due to the long distance and lack of time. This platform will assist them in overcoming the challenges and removing these hurdles.
By browsing the app, the farmers will also learn about the proper usage of pesticides and fertilizers in the field -- an action that will accelerate the growth of plants, killing harmful insects.
Digital Crop Calendar:
Incurring losses is a common phenomenon for many farmers due to improper planning -- from seed germination and transplanting saplings to marketing the harvested crops for sale.
Like Krishoker Janala, the government is going to introduce another digital platform, namely the ‘Digital Crop Calendar’, in a bid to resolve the above-mentioned issues. It will inform a farmer about the life cycle of different crops to achieve maximum yield.
By guiding farmers on how to utilize labour properly and manage the farm efficiently, the digital calendar will also let the farmers know the actual time of applying fertilizers and pesticides in the field. Many farmers face transactional trouble while marketing their harvested crops. The platform will facilitate the transaction between the financial stakeholders and the farmers.
Agriculture Data Dashboard:
It often makes headlines that our crops are being damaged, often without us knowing why. Besides, global warming and low rainfall are taking a toll on our agriculture.
According to the country’s meteorological department, the country saw the lowest rainfall in 41 years in July 2022—a month when our farmers prepare the land and germinate seeds for Aman paddy.
The government is going to launch an ‘Agriculture Data Dashboard’ to help both farmers and stakeholders make more informed, effective, and sustainable decisions based on real-time data on several stages of farming that include crop growth, soil conditions, weather forecast, and market prices.
The platform, which is to be powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Farming, and Cloud Computing, will notify farmers what pesticide to apply in the field, when and by how much to kill the detrimental pests and accelerate the growth of plants. Apart from this, the dashboard will assist farmers to maximize proceeds by showing the market prices of some crops that are likely to be hiked in the market. To ensure the maximum utilization of these platforms, the government will arrange training sessions on data literacy and capacity development for farmers, policymakers, and different stakeholders.
Smart Agriculture Tech Lab:
There is no alternative to research if we want to deal with the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in the country’s agriculture. The ‘Smart Agriculture Tech Lab’ will facilitate public and private fragmented research and technological innovations.
The lab will employ 4IR innovations (robots, drones, satellite imagery, smartphone applications) on a trial basis to move towards precision agriculture, which is a relatively new phenomenon for developing countries like Bangladesh—that includes targeted irrigation and application of fertilizers and pesticides in the field to boost crop yields, reducing costs.
The platform will also enable farmers to access new technologies such as precision breeding and biotechnology in a bid to improve crop quality and resistance to disease.
To figure out the solution to the agro-associated challenges, the government will organize a precision agriculture challenge competition where innovators will come up with their best ideas.
To become Smart Bangladesh, we must take our agriculture to the next level, reflecting our progress and development as a nation. We hope that all of the platforms mentioned above can be scaled up and Smart Agriculture can become one of the foundations on which Smart Bangladesh is built.
Md. Tanvir Quader is Solution Architect, Aspire to Innovate