|The forum’s participants visiting Bayer’s display area |
Kohei Sakata, customer experience and digital strategy head for Asia Pacific at Bayer Crop Science, spoke at last week’s Vietnam-EU Forum on Sustainable Agriculture. In Asia particularly, Sakata pointed out, the majority of farmers are smallholders who own fewer than two hectares, accounting for 70 per cent of the consumption of agricultural production. “It is clear that our digital solutions have offered great opportunities to accelerate sustainability in agriculture,” Sakata said. “It is a critical agenda of Bayer to help smallholder farmers produce more with fewer resources. Our innovative digital solutions will help to enable a high quality and safety farming practice in a very productive manner.”
By nature, agriculture utilises natural resources such as water, land, and soil. While operation is increasing, available land is falling. In this context, sustainability is very important. At a global level, demand for food will increase by 50 per cent and yields may decline by up to 30 per cent by 2050 in the absence of ambitious climate action.
According to a report prepared by the Global Commission on Adaptation, a more resilient food future will rely on sharp increases in agricultural research and development; better alignment of government finance and incentives for farmers with long-term, sustainable, climate-smart production; and a step change in access to information, innovative technologies, and finance to enhance the resilience of 500 million small-scale farming households whose livelihoods are most critically impacted by climate change.
Sakata shared that Bayer’s ambition is to bring digital solutions to enhance smallholder farmers’ technical capabilities with digital advisory to optimise their cultivation method and overcome climate challenges to achieve higher yield, quality, and profit. With that, the company enables smallholder farmers to increase agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner and to improve the lives of their families and communities as well as making their contribution to keeping Vietnam’s agriculture competitive in international markets.
Among digital solutions, drones can help smallholder farmers prevent chemical hazards. The drone can spray the fields with crop protection products and that could prevent farmers from operating under exposure of chemicals. This will also ensure an efficient spray, helping avoiding overuse or disuse of chemical products.
In addition, drones can also contribute to water consumption saving because they use very limited levels of valuable water. Last but not least, drones do not require much money to control and can also be a great solution to labour shortages. In many countries, including developing ones, farmers are struggling to secure labour to carry out all the farm operation work but drones and mechanisation can help farmers produce with more efficiency and less labour.
Within the framework of co-operation of the Rice Value Chain programme between Bayer and Trung An, an exclusive strategic co-operation agreement was signed to jointly promote the local application of agricultural unmanned aerial systems and provide a customised plant protection service to help improve cultivation capacity and control residues in high quality rice production, targeting the export market. Initially, the pilot project has been implemented in Trung An’s farm in Kien Giang province for two years from this May, over 200 hectares.
Another solution of Bayer includes bioscience technology to make seeds more tolerant against pest attacks, for example fall armyworm (FAW) in corn. FAW is now a threat over the world including Vietnam, significantly reducing the corn yield. Thanks to those technologies and solutions from Bayer, farmers can not only protect the yields but also their livelihoods.
Alongside that, Bayer is working on a joint project with key stakeholders to accompany Vietnam’s sustainable agricultural development. The activity outline includes increasing farmers’ capabilities and application of high technology in digital farming. It targets crops favoured for export to EU markets to support the coming EVFTA implementation for agriculture, covering coffee, pepper, rice, and fruit.
“As a world leading agriculture company, Bayer has the global mission to set a standard in sustainability,” added Sakata. “With our innovation and digital solutions, we aim to make agriculture or farming itself much more professional and efficient, and also more attractive to the younger generation. Thanks to new technologies available now, we believe that we can really help to support the generation changes in agriculture to enable a more sustainable food supply chain to feed the world’s growing population.”
In order for Bayer and other innovation-oriented companies to ensure timely introduction of digital farming technologies, infrastructure development and predictable and internationally-harmonised regulatory environments will be the key factors. Bayer, as a result, aims to take a partnership approach to collaborate with all public and private stakeholders in order to jointly accelerate these prioritised areas.