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Indonesia urges academe, experts to use tech to improve agri sector

The Indonesian government is banking on technology and innovation as it strives to mitigate the food crisis and to curb the nation’s dependence on food imports.

In a statement, Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister of Public Works and Public Housing, has called on members of the academe and experts, particularly those from the Indonesian Hydraulic Engineering Expert Association (HATHI), to utilise technology in finding ways to improve existing food estate development processes in Central Kalimantan Province (Kalteng).

This announcement was made during the virtual opening of the 37th HATHI Annual Scientific Meeting on 12 December. This year, the HATHI event was held in two locations: in Gunadarma University in Depok City and in Sriwijaya University in Palembang City.

The session was attended by top figures in both the government and the academe, including the Director General of Water Resources of the Ministry of PUPR and Jarot Widyoko, General Chair of HATHI for the 2020-2023 period. The Chancellor of Gunadarma Margianti University and Sriwijaya University Chancellor Anis Saggaf also attended the event.

Indonesia’s food estate project is part of the lineup in its National Strategic Programs for 2020 to 2024. Under the master plan, developments are intended to be developed for both irrigation and non-irrigated land. Supporting infrastructure like roads is likewise part of this roadmap.

Digitalisation in water management models

Minister Basuki said that food development processes they intend to boost include those in land development and water management, particularly in lowland and tidal swamps. He added, “the most important thing is water management. We must take advantage of all innovations to make them more developed”.

By using Smart Water Management (SWM) techniques, the government can come up with an Integrated Water Resources Management Scheme or an IWRM.

Part of the plan is the improvement of SWM processes which can be made to include smart sensors, real-time data monitoring, cloud technology and even wireless decision systems. The government anticipates that once this digital system is up and running, there will be improved water flow management in agricultural areas like rice fields.

The Central Kalimantan Province is home to a vast alluvial expanse spanning 165,000 hectares. According to Minister Basuki, water irrigation systems in rice fields within this area can be upgraded through the use of IT. On a larger scale, this technology can further be expanded for the development of a more sophisticated agricultural system. The new system can then be applied not only during food or crop production but in post-production procedures as well.

The role of members of the academe

The Ministry remains positive that members of the academe can strengthen food development processes, especially in future projects like automation systems that will require the expertise of academic experts in IT. Minister Basuki added that IT can be used in swampy areas where manual processes can be laborious, hence the need for simplified techniques in data automation.

Minister Basuki ended his statement with high hopes that academic institutions like Sriwijaya University will take the leap in helping improve swamp water management on Rimau Island as part of initiatives to upgrade the food estate in Central Kalimantan.

OpenGov Asia has earlier reported that Indonesia has been ramping up various sectors of its economy through innovation. In November, the Ministry of Health called on local governments to deploy digital health services. According to a more recent news story, Indonesia urged manufacturers to consider investing in artificial intelligence as it attempts to support its manufacturing sector as part of its Making Indonesia 4.0 roadmap.

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