A demonstration on laser levelling at a Mechanisation Field Day in Letpadan, Myanmar.
Photo: DLG

Smart farming at Agritechnica Asia and Horti Asia

In late August, the 2nd Agritechnica Asia and Horti Asia trade fair took place in Bangkok, Thailand, organised by the German Agricultural Society (DLG) and VNU Exhibitions Asia Pacific. The exhibition shows innovations in agricultural and horticultural machinery and provides a platform for discussions and knowledge sharing.

The 2nd trade fair Agritechnica Asia and Horti Asia took place in Bangkok, Thailand with round about 300 exhibitors from 29 countries and more than 10,000 visitors and conference delegates from 69 countries. The second edition of the trade fair was organised by DLG and VNU in co-operation with the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

While Horti Asia showcased smart horticultural technology for all types of growers, Agritechnica Asia presented a wide range of tractors, farm machinery and equipment as well as spare parts and accessories, all of which is expected to contribute to the mechanisation of new-generation farms in the region.

The Agrifuture Forum focused on drone technology and precision farming. Seminars and panel discussions such as “Farming goes digital”, “Precision farming in rice production” and “Success through joint machinery use” addressed issues relevant to agricultural industry in the Asian-Pacific region.

Smart farming in Thailand

The main cash crops cultivated in Thailand are rice, cassava, maize and sugarcane. A pilot project on smart farming for rice and cassava run by the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives aims at increasing yield, reducing losses, and problem-solving on labour shortage and aging farmers. This is to be achieved with selected varieties through crop models, fertiliser application based on soil fertility maps and using drone and satellite monitoring for crop protection, irrigation and data collection. The data is then processed with Big Data technology.

Thai requests concentrate on camera-led seed bed preparation, high-precision crop planters as well as mechanical weed control through GPS, sensor and laser. For harvesting crops especially horticulture, there is a need for appropriate machinery considering regional circumstances in South-East Asia.

Precision farming in rice production

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Asian rice field is generally uneven, with an average difference in elevation of 160 mm. This means that an additional 80 to 100 mm of irrigation water is needed to cover the whole field. Small plot sizes determine fragmented fields. This hinders most field operations, resulting in higher fuel consumption and inefficient land preparation. Furthermore, farmers depend on water in levelling the fields. But water supply is scheduled, so that the farmers have to wait for water, which sometimes leads to delays in crop establishment. This situation calls for optimised water supply and usage as well as appropriate land preparation.

IRRI proposed the laser levelling approach. To prepare the land for levelling, a topographic survey has to be conducted. This is necessary to determine the difference in field elevations. Mounted on a tripod at the side of the field, a rotating laser transmitter creates a laser plane as a height reference for the receiver. An omni-directional laser receiver that defines the height of the tool with respect to the position of the reference plane, transmits the signal to the control box.

The control box accepts and processes the signals from the receiver. These signals tell the drag bucket’s position relative to the land surface and control the hydraulic valve. A hydraulic control system regulates the oil supply from the tractor’s hydraulic pump to raise and lower the levelling bucket through the hydraulic ram. For optimum levelling operations, the bucket should be moved from high to low areas in a circular manner.

Farmers in Cambodia’s Chainat and Nakornsawan claim that they save about 50 per cent of pumping cost for irrigation. Applying a no post-emergence herbicide further reduces production costs. Finally, an increase in yield of about 20 to 25 per cent can be achieved thanks to uniform distribution of agronomic inputs.

Laser levelling reduces methane emissions

The Thai Rice NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action) identified laser levelling along with Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) as one mitigation technology to address methane emissions.

Successfully piloted in Cambodia, the Thai Rice NAMA aims to outreach out to 100,000 rice farming households to shift from conventional to low-emission farming in provinces in the Central Plain. The project will be implemented in five years, with a total investment of 12 million US dollars for laser levelling equipment.

IRRI concludes that a consistent government policy on farm mechanisation is needed. Furthermore, farmers with small landholdings should be organised to implement laser levelling. Contractors should provide services, i.e. investing in modern machineries and building staff and human resource capacities. IRRI also recommends implementing standards on levelling accuracy as well as developing suitable business models in specific cases.

Mechanisation Field Day in Myanmar

In May 2018, DLG organised a Field Day in Kyoet Pin Sa Khan Village, Letpadan, in Myanmar. Beside a drum seeder, a transplanter, and post-harvest equipment, laser levelling systems were presented. In a seminar on laser levelling, IRRI moderated an exchange of experiences from other countries and business models as well as among participating farmers.

The next Agritechnica Asia and Horti Asia takes place from 7-9 May 2020 at BITEC, Bangkok, Thailand.

(DLG/IRRI/db)

More information:

Thai Rice NAMA website

Agritechnica Asia website