Smart devices change farming
By Yoon Ja-young
The introduction of smart devices is rapidly changing people’s lifestyle as well as work, politics, the economy and industry. Agriculture is no exception with smart technologies increasingly being applied to production, distribution and consumption.
The Korea Communications Commission jointly launched “smart farm” services with the National Information Society Agency last Friday to monitor cultivation facilities in greenhouses and help urban residents in switching careers to farming.
Developed by KT and Gwangyang City and supported by the regulator, the services will be tested on 20 farms that grow tomatoes and paprika and around 130 households that have hobby farms in Gwangyang. The regulator plans to commercialize the services in 2012.
They include diverse technologies. The machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, which enables communication between devices, is applied in the monitoring of temperature, humidity and light in greenhouses using smartphones. Cultivation manuals on 10 crops, provided by the Rural Development Administration, can instantly be checked by smartphones, smart pads, IPTVs or satellite broadcasting service SkyLife. Those who plan to go to rural areas from urban districts to start farming can receive advice from experts at the agricultural technology center of Gwangyang City, on how to grow crops and prevent disease and pests. They can also share user created content (UCC) videos with other rookie farmers.
“The services are expected to help farms with the effective management of crops and enhanced productivity, while helping returnees successfully settle down in rural areas by transferring them with farming knowledge,” a spokesman for the regulator said.
From production to consumption
The Rural Development Administration said that there have been changes from production to distribution and consumption. “Smart farming, using diverse technology, information and programs, is becoming a reality. Ubiquitous technology gave birth to smart farms and diverse applications and information are being used. Farmers can enhance productivity by receiving information in real time, such as that regarding pests,” Kim Sang-chul, a researcher at the administration, said in a report.
According to statistics cited in the study, apple farmers in the United States increased harvests by 5 to 15 percent, improved quality by 10 to 25 percent while decreasing water use by 10 to 40 percent through smart farming.
KT launched Olleh Smart Farm this year, where farmers can manage crops using smartphones or tablets, monitoring the temperature, humidity and light in greenhouses, and control them through devices linked with the handsets, such as heaters, dehumidifiers and doors. SK Telecom has a similar service, where one can check the condition of greenhouses. It also shows videos and thus works as a CCTV as well.
Kim noted changes in distribution and consumption as well. “The new devices relieve consumers of concerns over agricultural goods even if they don’t go directly to the market. Smart bidding and direct sales through social network services and IPTV are already quite popular. They are changing the fundamentals of the distribution channel,” he said. Kim added that smart consumption will strengthen trust between the urban and rural segments.
The regulator and the National Information Society Agency have also launched local food services where producers and consumers can share information on agricultural production and engage in direct transactions. The service, which incorporates agricultural producers in Wanju, North Jeolla Province, and 100 consumers in Jeonju and Seoul, enables consumer households to monitor the production of organic crops in real time, through IPTV, computers or smartphones. They can also place orders through the video call center operated by a farmers’ cooperatives in Wanju, buying at lower prices through the direct channel, which means increased income and stable demand for farmers.
Smart technologies are being applied particularly in distribution channels. Soiva Consortium developed a traceability system jointly with KT and SK Telecom where one can keep track of the distribution of imported agricultural and fisheries products with smartphones. The system has been under testing at the Incheon Main Customs Office from October, and is to be expanded nationwide from next year.
According to KT officials, importers or distributors had to file imported products with the customs office using computers, but they can do it anywhere, anytime and in real time, with smartphones. As one can trace the imported food from arrival to the final sale, the distribution channel becomes transparent and effectively managed amid growing concern over imported food.