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Taiwan Combines Human, Artificial Intelligence for Agricultural Transformation

Agricultural production is always prone to weather conditions, making the supply-demand imbalance the biggest pain point for farmers over the years. The improvements in agricultural production technology have helped farmers secure yield stability and quality in fruit and vegetable crops.

However, the oversupply often causes a sharp fall in the prices of agricultural products, leaving farmers with nowhere to sell and a large number of fruits and vegetables to rot in the fields. In the end, they have to endure major crops and profit losses.

While the importance of agriculture to the Taiwanese economy has declined from its heyday, Taiwan still has a reputation as a fruit kingdom. However, Taiwan’s farming areas are limited and scattered, making it difficult to compete with overseas farms with large-scale farming areas in terms of production costs.

The Taiwanese government has combined Taiwan’s advantages in planting technology with the IT industry by introducing Artificial intelligence technology to transform Taiwanese farms into standardised production and a competitive agribusiness in the global market. ​

For example, the total dragon fruit farm areas in Taiwan have exceeded over 3,000 hectares, but the output is still less than in many other countries.  To solve the issue for dragon fruit farmers, the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) of Taiwan, the promoter of smart applications and technologies, has joined forces with Pingtung county government and a Taiwanese communications company to establish a smart demo field in Taiwan’s largest dragon fruit farm.

The company provides low-cost IoT sensors with a built-in SIM card and solar power supply features at a reasonable monthly fee. Farmers can easily adjust the location of the sensors based on the needs of their farms. This allows farmers to monitor the environmental information of the farms in real-time. If there is an abnormal value, a notification will be sent to remind the farmer to deal with it immediately.

Thus, farmers do not need to spend 2 hours on field patrols every night, thereby enhance the efficiency of farm management. In addition, they also use data to identify the best sowing time in winter, and by integrating with the Taiwanese Agriculture Committee’s planting log system to establish a digital twin model of dragon fruit. This allows farmers without any winter sowing experience to follow the instructions given by the digital twin model to grow dragon fruits stably in terms of yield and quality.

To ensure the harvest of dragon fruits, a network sensor and base station are installed in the farms to collect farm data on a daily basis, such as air, soil temperature and humidity, electrical conductivity, and illuminance, etc. In addition, the adoption of AI technology helps farmers calculate supplemental lighting time for dragon fruits during winter in Taiwan

To accurately estimate the yield and quality of dragon fruits, inappropriate flower buds must be removed to ensure that the size of the flower buds is similar. By wearing augmented reality (AR) smart glasses and combining AI technology, farmers are able to identify flower buds and calculate the size of each flower bud with up to a 90% accuracy rate.

Finally, during harvesting, farmers can use AI to identifying the maturity level of a dragon fruit skin from the green area, the smoothness of the skin, and the degree of damage before conducting a real-time smart fruit quality grading. The AI-powered glasses can successfully identify the flaws on the dragon fruits (such as cracks, insect bites, scabs, etc.) within one second with a recognition rate of 90%.

Under the joint efforts of the Smart City Taiwan Project initiated by the Industrial IDB of MoEA and the Pingtung county government, the digital twin model for dragon fruits has been introduced into two Taiwanese farms. If this planting solution is adopted by more and more farms in Pingtung County, the output value of the farms will reach NT$300 million (US$11 million). Thereby enhancing the market competitiveness of agricultural products and providing a lot more income for farmers.


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