Korean farmers learn to work smarter, not harder
Smart farming is on the rise.
The use of high tech gadgets and artificial intelligence (AI) in raising cattle and growing crops is rising in popularity among farmers around the world, saving both time and money with the aid of sensors and self-educating AI that analyzes data to maintain an optimal environment.
Operating a smart farm means that most of the work takes place through a smartphone, according to Song Gi-jae, a strawberry smart farm owner in Damyang, South Jeolla.
Song frequently checks his phone to monitor the temperature and humidity of the farm. If there’s too much sunlight, he simply presses a button to put up the shades.
“Other [strawberry] farms usually harvest around late November to early December,” said Song, “but I managed to cut that by about two weeks thanks to the smart farm system."
Korean smart farms themselves are also growing.
According to the Korea Agency of Education, Promotion and Information Service in Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (EPIS), the size of greenhouse farms using smart technologies grew by threefold from 2016 to 2020. They also showed fast growth last year, according to EPIS.
The most common type of smart farms are greenhouses which use sensors and deep learning AI to monitor and take care of the surrounding environment. A farm owner can also be provided with information on things to look for at certain temperatures or humidity levels, and any diseases that could break out.
Those features especially helped out with Park Jeong-ju's strawberry farming. Park is a strawberry smart farm owner in Goyang, Gyeonggi.
“It’s really important to act fast with strawberries because they’re sensitive to temperature,” he said.
Much of the technologies are aimed at giving physical help to farmers, as the average age of farmers continues to rise and the overall population of rural areas decreases. Automated pesticide sprinkling or self-driving agricultural mechanics are such examples.
AI technology is also quickly advancing. The latest AI models can deduce the health status of cattle from the ammonia concentration within the farm or how much they are eating. It can even detect diseases such as bird influenza from an early stage.
The global smart farm market has been growing in recent years. It grew by 85 percent from 2015 to stand at 378 trillion won ($305.4 billion) as of 2020, according to EPIS.
The market is estimated to have grown to 428 trillion won last year, which would mean the market doubled in size in six years. This is expected to increase to 482 trillion won by the end of this year.
The EPIS is helping more farms become smarter. It took applications from a consortium of local farmers and companies with related technologies that can work together to equip farms with the latest technologies.
The chosen teams will be provided with up to 245 million won to use for their new project.
“We believe, through the consortium of local companies and farmers, smart farming will be provided to more agricultural population,” said Lee Jong-soon, president of EPIS.
BY JEONG JIN-HO [firstname.lastname@example.org]