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The International Workshop, which focused on the information and communication technologies (ICT) that are applied to crop production agriculture is a best-likely-mechanism for precision agriculture. To set the tone, two keynote talks were delivered. The first talk of Dr. Pauline Chivenge on Rice Crop Manager a mobile app that was co-developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) showed farmers can gain higher productivities and better incomes when correct fertilizer and crop management decisions were followed. The second talk of Mr. Chia-Yu Lin had zeroed on the different technologies of Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) including the use of drones for field mapping and automated control of sluice gates for better irrigation control. Further, the individual country participants reported on their state of Precision Ag Technologies that are being explored at different stages of development. 

My ponderings on the workshop activities made me realize that we really need strategic directions for modernizing farming given the challenges imposed upon us by high population, shrinking crop lands, climate change and increasing resource costs. While the initial investments may be quite high, by changing our mindsets with the use of better farming models such as putting greater focus on organized farmer groups, concomitantly getting substantial support from the government will make precision agricultural technologies viable even in the countryside. A strong public-private partnership can be a  leverage on the economic muscles and national mandate of the government, and the creativity and flexibility of the private companies to create long lasting ventures. This could easily be seen in the automated fertigation system developed by the company A-til-Ze for a farmer group, which we visited. There is a need to validate the effectiveness of technologies to deliver the desired final results. We have to wean out the low impact ones that require substantial investments on research, and drive on those that can create synergisms with the current set of available technologies.

There seemed to be a great need for the country research centers to work together on specific areas, for example, on the use of artificial intelligence on image data collected by the drones and field sensors providing meteorological, hydraulic and soil information to maximize the productivity of the crop lands. Robotics for unmanned agricultural vehicles would address the future shortage of farmers, for increased resource use efficiency and lower any negative environment impact. Long before, these are far distant realities within the enclaves of futuristic technologies, but today we find them very relevant and game changers to reckon upon on how we should aptly do things.

The MARDI and FFTC staff, who hosted the workshop had made an excellent job on looking after the individual needs of the participants. Thank you so much for putting a lot of heartfelt efforts to make the workshop successful. My gratitude goes to Dr. Kuo-Ching Lin, Director, FFTC and Datuk Dr. Mohamad Roff Bin Mohd Noor, MARDI Director General for their keen insights and sharing the importance of Precision Ag, and for deploying the necessary resources that made the workshop possible. Congratulations to us all and I am earnestly looking for a productive collaboration in the future.

Filipino speaker Dr. Jasper Tallada, from the Philippine Rice Research Institute, said the ICT workshop made him realize that there really is a need for strategic directions in modernizing farming given the challenges imposed upon us by high population, shrinking crop lands, climate change and increasing resource costs.