BIG-DATA BOOST for farmers 

Tech July 30, 2017 08:45


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FARMERS who grow crops, including rice, corn and sugarcane, which are vulnerable to natural disasters, will in future get rapid assistance from government under the natural disaster relief programme and assistance plan for low-income earners.

For that they should thank the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec), the developers of the Food and Agriculture Revolution Model Information System (FAARMis). This farmer and field registration project is expected to register farmers in 6.7 million households in the country within the next couple years, says the Agriculture and Cooperatives ministry.

FAARMis is a registration project that creates digital data files of farmers and fields. The system allows officers of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to use tablet devices to collect and record data about farmers, their fields, and plants or crops grown. Using GPS, the field officers can include geographical data that ensures all fields are accounted for. The data is then transferred from the tablet to a permanent database.

So far, the project has registered around 315,000 fields of the 13 million nationwide. Other data records 3 million farmers and field. The information collected will, among other things, be used as the database for participation in government programs including the natural disaster relief programme and the assistance plan for low-income earners. 

Registered farmers need to inform the local District Agriculture Extension Officer within 15-60 days of planting crops or starting other agricultural activity. Keeping the files updated helps ensure the government can quickly help the farmer in the event of a natural disaster.

A farmer who is registering for the first time must submit a request together with copies of land rights for agricultural production and their identification card to the District Agriculture Extension Office nearest his cultivated land. That information becomes the basic data record.

"The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry started to utilise information technology to register farmers via FAARMis last year in Pathum Thani and Khonkaen provinces," said Dares Kittiyopas, director of the information and communication technology centre in the Agriculture Extension Department of the ministry.

Dares said that around 1,000 tablet devices are being used to collect data on the farmers and farms. The farmer registration will also create benefit to both the government and farmers, in terms of identifying the most suitable areas to plant crops such as rice, palm, cassava, rubber tree, sugar cane, and corn. The data will help with identifying ideal crop zones, matching plants to the most suitable soil in each area. The information could help farmers increase crop productivity and efficiency.

She said that so far the ministry has collected farmer and field data on around 3 million fields. Thailand has around 6.7 million farmers tending some 13 million fields totalling approximately 96 million rai nationwide.

The ministry expects to collect data and register all farmers nation-wide within the next couple years. The next step would be to utilise the agricultural data to develop national agricultural plans and policies.

"The ministry in the next step will provide plant and crop knowledge to farmers via mobile application, so that farmers will able to get information about plants in order to improve their productivity as a whole," said Dares.

Sarun Sumriddetchkajorn, director of Nectec, said that the agency will develop tools, application and solutions to support the Agriculture and Cooperatives ministry so that it, in turn, could utilise these tools to support farmers throughout the country.

FAARMis will also connect with the "What 2 Grow" and "Agri-Map" solutions, which are agriculture management programs that will enable farmers to access knowledge and information to support their fields. 

The database now being built would allow for "big data" analytics to create and support agriculture management that will help farmers improve their productivity and general quality of life - and support the Thailand 4.0 scheme in the process.