In response to climate change, Taiwan’s government has formulated various intelligent measures to those affected industries and businesses. For the agriculture sector, the measures include remote process control combined with sensors, internet, and IoT, and the farmers can remotely monitor their farms via mobile devices and systematically link up agricultural production, marketing, and consumer market. Taiwan continues to use big data analysis to monitor its agricultural import and export market conditions, and guide the industry to flexibly adjust production in a timely manner and use IoT technologies to stabilize production and sales. Through various smart agriculture measures, farmers, farmers’ groups, and agriculture enterprises can overcome the impacts of climate factors and accelerate agricultural product and e-commerce development, and promote industrial structure upgrade.
Keywords: Smart Agriculture, Intelligent Agriculture, Climate Change, Taiwan
With the development of the global economy, the massive consumption of natural resources and the destruction of environmental systems have caused global warming and climate change to become increasingly obvious. In 2015, the 21st Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reiterated that climate change is a major issue facing mankind all over the world. Taiwan is located in a subtropical oceanic climate area, which is a high-risk marginal area. Past works showed that climate warming leads to changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climates, all of which will affect agricultural production and biodiversity. From 2017 to 2022, the Council of Agriculture (COA) in Taiwan implements the Smart Agriculture Program with two main strategies: Smart Production and Digital Service, which seek to systematically link up agricultural production, marketing, and consumer market. Furthermore, by introducing sensors, smart devices, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analysis, it is possible to achieve digital knowledge, smart production, optimized products, convenient operation, and cloud tracing, which facilitate the establishment of smart agricultural production and marketing, as well as digital service system. Therefore, this research mainly analyzes Taiwan's agricultural adjustment strategies and smart agriculture practices in response to climate change.
SMART AGRICULTURE PROGRAM IN TAIWAN
The COA in Taiwan implements the Smart Agriculture Program in response to the problems facing agriculture today. The principal objective is to integrate interdisciplinary professional talents, as well as to apply sensing technology, smart machinery, IoT, and big data analysis among other advanced technologies to agriculture (The Council of Agriculture of Taiwan, 2021a).
- The strategies in response to demographic structural changes: In 2016, Taiwan’s population over the age of 65 constituted 12.5% of the total population. In 2060, the older population is expected to reach 39.3%, which means that Taiwan’s future labor force will experience drastic attenuation. The situation will become worse as Taiwan’s current main agricultural manpower is already aging. The objective is to greatly reduce old-age farmers’ physical burden when harvesting and moving loads by developing strength-saving assistive equipment such as the wearable assistive device. This device offers up to 9 kg assistance force to one arm and saves up to 30% muscle strength. The device can also effectively reduce fatigue and upper limb soreness, decrease energy depletion while alleviating back pain.
- The strategies in response to professional talent shortage: Another problem that emerges from then aging agricultural population is the gap of passing down of experience and knowledge. Traditional agriculture usually relies on the experiences passed down by seasoned farmers, along with relentless trial-and-error attempts to successfully cultivate and produce superior products, which result in a significantly high entry threshold. Therefore, the smart agriculture program will establish the Greenhouse Master Digital Twin Model by first setting up sensors in fields to collect field information, then proceed to analyze data through AI technology, combined with rich experiences from seasoned farmers and professional knowledge from experts. The result will be the creation of two digital services: Greenhouse Doctor that can help diagnose greenhouse staffs’ operating habits, and Greenhouse Coach that can provide decision-making management suggestions. Not only can it lower the entry threshold for agricultural newcomers, but it can also allow managerial staff to focus on crop production management and expansion of farmland areas and in the process relieve greenhouse administrative pressure and time while lowering farm management personnel workload and relevant expenses.
- The strategies in response to extensive working hours in agriculture: Traditional agriculture is often at the mercy of the elements, and usually requires considerable amount of time and labor force on management training. Therefore, it is expected that through the application of remote process control combined with sensors, internet, and IoT, farmers can remotely monitor their farms via mobile devices. This will greatly improve agricultural work environment by removing farmers out of field operations under the scorching sun and high temperature environment.
- The strategies in response to small-scale farmers and global trade: Farmlands in Taiwan are commonly fragmented and scattered, owned majorly by small-scale farmers. However, under the trend of global trade, overseas large-scale productions tend to lower the cost, threatening the competitiveness of Taiwan’s agricultural products. Thus, the Smart Agriculture Program intends to form a union of smart agriculture small-scale farmers and establish a new partnership between small-scale farmers and owners of agri-businesses, and then proceed to bring in smart technology through Agricultural Research and Extension Stations or via technological support and assistance jointly developed with the private sector. The goal is to achieve environmental monitoring, quality control, risk early-warning, as well as control and production decision-making among other support. Other objectives include the regulating effect on production-marketing disequilibrium and risk reduction while improving product competitiveness. (The Council of Agriculture of Taiwan, 2021a).
SMART AGRICULTURE SCOPE AND APPLICATIONS IN TAIWAN
In order to promote the "Smart Agriculture 4.0" project, the COA in Taiwan has proposed three major areas: biotech agriculture, fine agriculture, and precision agriculture, and precision agriculture is divided into two categories: the bottom-building and top-notch industries. Ten leading industries, including the phalaenopsis industry, the seedling industry, the mushroom industry, rice farming industry, agricultural facility industry, breeding and aquaculture industry, poultry (waterfowl) industry, traceable agricultural products industry, raw milk industry, and marine fishery industry, are the priority areas for promotion.
- Phalaenopsis Industry: This industry must develop suitable automatic pot changing, watering and spraying equipment and production models to reduce the manpower demand. For technology side, it should introduce physiological sensing, smart production monitoring, image growth and pest identification systems to improve quality. This industry constructs a smart logistics management system for tissue culture, uses organization to cultivate smart production and marketing services to develop new models, smart production process management, and IoT logistics service systems as the main axis to integrate actual production and virtual marketing, and connect digital management system from tissue cultured seedlings to seedling production; construction of an expert system for production and technical diagnosis services to assist the industry to enter the European market and emerging markets such as Brazil.
- Mushroom Industry: In the Smart Agriculture 4.0 project, the mushroom production environment will be fully controlled, as well as automated harvesting. Through the development of mushroom production facilities and related machinery, the software and hardware would be integrated, and the energy-saving equipment would be introduced. The production side, the supply side and the consumption side are connected in series to enhance the overall competitiveness of the mushroom industry.
- Rice Farming Industry: With economies of scale and alliance production, Taiwan will develop an intelligent system and create a human-machine collaboration and intelligent production of rice cultivation. Through labor-saving intelligent rice production management, a new type of agricultural service industry will be generated, and the efficiency and competitiveness of the rice industry will be improved; synchronized information between producers and consumers will be connected. Through the analysis of big data, an active and all-round rice consumption and service platform will be constructed to increase consumers' trust of domestic rice.
- Poultry industry: By developing a poultry intelligent IoT breeding production management system and establishing a recognition and verification platform mechanism, poultry production conforms to the international food safety production, and it leads to increase export benefits; in addition, Taiwan can export poultry intelligent IoT breeding technology to assist other countries. The intelligent technology of the poultry/poultry egg production can be extended to other livestock industries, such as the pig and the cattle industries.
- Marine Fishery Industry：The fishery industry uses the technologies of smart agriculture 4.0 to build up the dataset of fishery information. The industry also develops energy-saving/labor-saving machinery for cross-domain integration of mechanical and electrical engineering technology, and also builds traceability system. By smart monitoring and sensing, the fishery industry makes the logistics of the catch transparent. Through big data analysis, fishery industry tracks supply chain, timely controls inventory and external sales, avoids the imbalance of production and sales, and maintains the competitiveness of the industry.
Small-scaled farmers are the dominant population in Taiwan agriculture sector, the advantages of smart agriculture against climate change are well planned by Taiwan government, including contribution to aged field workforce and onsite management. While the financial affordability of small-scaled farmers is very limited for smart agriculture tools, there are still many challenges and responding policies deployed by the COA in increasing coverage of smart agriculture in small-scaled farmer population in Taiwan.
For example, the development of innovative technologies for smart agriculture can achieve a labor-saving and large-scale production, increase the potential of crop production, and create a safe and convenient farming environment, attract more young people to join, and make Taiwan's agriculture inch its way a step forward. Towards a young, energetic and highly competitive agriculture, smart agriculture can provide stable, fresh and safe food, and it can also assist the development of internationally competitive export industries. By introducing sensors, smart devices, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analysis, it is possible to achieve digital knowledge, smart production, optimized products, convenient operation, and cloud tracing, which facilitate the establishment of smart agricultural production and marketing, as well as digital service system. The goal is to provide much needed assistance to small-scale farmers in their struggle while elevating overall production efficiency and productivity through smart production and smart management.
The Council of Agriculture of Taiwan, 2021a. Smart Agriculture in Taiwan. https://www.coa.gov.tw/ws.php?id=3
The Council of Agriculture of Taiwan, 2021b. Policies. https://eng.coa.gov.tw/ws.php?id=250538