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Indonesia to Strengthen Agriculture Sector through Digitalisation

Digital agriculture represents a promising alternative for meeting the need for increased management efficiency, allowing for the proper allocation of resources, and ensuring the development of field workers. Digital transformation has made great strides in agriculture, as it has in other industries, sowing the seeds of what is now known as Agriculture 4.0, Digital Farming, or Smart Agriculture.

With COVID-19 making us all more reliant on digital technology than ever before, now is the time to ensure that the revolution does not further marginalise the world’s poorest communities. Increased investment in technologies to assist small-scale farmers will have far-reaching consequences long after the pandemic has passed.

Digital agriculture, in which farmers use mobile phones and other digital technologies to gain real-time access to customised, actionable agricultural information, has the potential to transform how these communities secure and improve their livelihoods. Countries can kick-start digital adoption and begin to close the income gap that has long held rural areas back by making the right investments now, while many agricultural extension officers are restricted from visiting farmers in person.

The Indonesian Foreign Minister and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Representative have confirmed a stronger partnership to transform Indonesia’s agri-food systems. According to an online meeting, FAO is committed to providing more assistance in the ongoing effort to transform the food system in a more sustainable manner.

“FAO will continue working with the (Indonesian) government to provide protection to smallholder farmers and their families, food workers in all sectors, and those who are particularly vulnerable”, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Representative said.

Foreign Affairs Minister, highlighting Indonesia’s 2.19% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase, hopes that the FAO will continue to support Indonesia in the agricultural sector. “I hope FAO will continue to support agriculture development in Indonesia focusing on strategic areas such as increasing production capacity, diversification of staple food consumption, strengthening food reserves and logistic systems, development of modern agriculture, and promoting agriculture experts,” said the minister. Agriculture digitalisation, such as e-agriculture and innovation, is mentioned as a possible solution to Indonesia’s agricultural problems.

Farming is an important part of the Indonesian economy, contributing significantly to GDP and employing nearly a third of the workforce. However, these figures are declining as fewer young people are interested in working in the field. This can lead to a greater reliance on imports and lower incomes for farmers, the majority of whom are smallholders. Farmers’ primary concerns are capital access, pest and disease management, and market access. According to one article, the cost of producing staple crops in Indonesia is 25%-50% higher than in neighbouring countries.

Moreover, automation, such as using drones or hydrogen balloons to spray pesticides, has the potential to significantly reduce reliance on manual labour and application time, while smart irrigation devices have the potential to reduce costs. Precision farming is the application of big data and advanced analytics to farming. Precision farming, which uses big data and advanced analytics to calculate precise inputs and outlays, can boost yield, while software, online calculators, and dashboards can make operations easier to manage.

OpenGov Asia in an article referred to a report stating that the Indonesian government and private initiatives are set to broaden agriculture’s contribution to economic growth and boost smallholder operations by encouraging the use of more advanced technology in the farming sector. Although economic diversification and urban migration have impacted the agricultural sector in recent years, the sector still provides a livelihood for most Indonesian households.

Indonesia is now turning to e-commerce and the greater use of digital tools to boost growth opportunities in a variety of sectors, including agriculture. Current government forecasts estimate a surge in e-commerce spending from USD 25 billion to USD 130 billion. In tandem with the various digital initiatives underway, the government is also looking to encourage the use of more advanced methods and inputs among smallholder farmers.

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