In a press
release, GeoWorks, an industry centre
to promote geospatial innovation and competencies, was officially launched on
16 July 2018 by Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Mr Edwin Tong. GeoWorks aims to connect
businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators
to drive geospatial solutions for the promotion of business growth and
opportunities in Singapore.
Geospatial information and technology has the potential to transform policy analysis,
operations, and service delivery,
accelerate the growth of industries and generate economic and social value for
Singapore. Geospatial information and technology helps support numerous
applications across different sectors and allows for real-time location-based
services. For instance, geospatial information from Global Navigation Satellite
Systems (GNSS) is used in autonomous vehicle trials and development, drone
flight path planning and even in remote sensing applications for day-to-day
navigation and wayfinding.
“In the age of technological disruption,
GeoWorks represents the Government’s commitment to enhance the use of geospatial information and technology to support
digitalisation of our key industries, and
to build up geospatial capabilities in support of Singapore’s Smart Nation
Initiative”, said Mr Tong.
GeoWorks was set up by the Singapore Land Authority
(SLA) in January 2018 as an initiative under the Singapore Geospatial Master
Plan. SLA and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) have
jointly developed the Geospatial Master Plan which sets out the vision,
strategies and key initiatives to facilitate geospatial transformation and to
pave the way towards a “Geospatial-Powered Singapore’. The aim of the
Geospatial Master Plan is to leverage emerging technologies and to build
geospatial competencies to address complex challenges and create opportunities.
This is in line with the Digital Government Blueprint’s strategy to raise
Whole-of-Government’s digital capabilities to pursue innovation, in support of
Singapore’s Smart Nation drive.
“Geospatial information has the tremendous
potential to transform services, streamline business processes and help
companies gain competitive advantage with geospatial data analytics,” SLA Chief
Executive, Tan Boon Khai said.
As an industry
centre, GeoWorks will galvanise the geospatial industry by reaching
out to geospatial businesses, entrepreneurs and users, supporting them with
resources such as geospatial and government data, expertise and access to
networks and opportunities. The ultimate objective is to facilitate the growth
of a vibrant geospatial ecosystem, creating value through shared knowledge,
expertise, and government data. The
geospatial companies catalyse geospatial
innovation and solutions; while the corporate and government end-users provide
access to business opportunities. GeoWorks now hosts 22 GeoTech companies
including ABJD, AirMap, NavInfo Data Tech and LDR Technology.
ABJD cofounder and Chief Engineer Hazrul A
Jamari said, “We are grateful to be a part of the Geoworks community as we are
able to tap on the expertise and resources of the OneMap team to build our next
generation Delivery Management System (DMS) and Halalonclick app. With OneMap,
we are able to get authoritative and updated addresses so that we deliver
Ben Marcus, cofounder,
and Chairman of AirMap said that AirMap
will be partnering SLA to progress geospatial innovation in Singapore. "In
our experiences around the world, we’ve found that collaboration with
government and local stakeholders is key to achieving the full promise of
drones and drone technology," he added.
Seventeen GeoPartners have also come
onboard to support GeoWorks, including Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, and Esri. “Spatial digitalisation is essential to many industries as it underpins all
efforts geared towards Singapore becoming a Smart Nation,” Thomas Pramotedham,
CEO of Esri Singapore said.
To build up and sustain a geospatial
ecosystem, regular challenges will be conducted at GeoWorks to encourage the
ideation and development of innovative solutions to address challenge
statements from user sectors, such as logistics, transport, and retail.
“Through GeoWorks, SLA will curate programmes
and initiatives, including mentorships and linkages with key industry
stakeholders, to seed business opportunities for geospatial start-ups, and
jumpstart innovation in this pioneering field. Ultimately, we are looking into
developing and uplifting skillsets and capabilities towards harnessing the
potential of emerging technologies to address complex challenges and
opportunities,” Mr Tan added.
A firm under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab recently announced the launch of a new solution. The innovation is now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
The solution, called VR Fire Drill Training, is a disaster training device that can simulate disaster escape from a fire scene in VR (virtual reality) environment, suitable for people over 13 years old.
Information can be obtained through the VR experience which includes:
- Interactions with blurry surroundings in the event of a fire (black smoke)
- Users’ ability to follow the emergency lighting instructions to determine the correct escape route
- A simulation where users squat down and walk as much as possible to the nearest escape
- Alerts to remind users to not breathe directly, use a (wet) handkerchief or towel to cover their mouth and nose
Summary of experience:
- In the virtual experience, users will experience how to escape in a building full of black smoke and fire
- From the VR head-mounted display, they can experience a 360-degree realistic scene
- The viewing angle can be moved by the controller (the experience takes about 3 minutes)
The solution was designed to be applied in the areas of City Management as well as Environment.
The solution employs Virtual Reality.
The use of virtual reality to imitate fire situations to conduct fire escape drills can reduce the time for implementing real fire drills. For example, government departments do not need to leave the workplace. Users can take turns using portable VR devices to experience fire situations and learn how to escape skills. It can also be used in schools, gymnasiums and commercial organizations, etc.
Propelling CEM technology
According to Everbridge, a critical event is a disruptive incident which poses serious risk or threat to assets or people. An effective Critical Event Management program and strategy is an integrated, end-to-end process that enables organizations to significantly speed up responses to critical events and improve outcomes by mitigating or eliminating the impact of a threat.
This means business continuity, disaster recovery, active assailant, emergency response, natural disaster, IT incident risk management, and mass notification are all rolled up into an easy-to-execute, strategic plan with long-term benefits.
The aforementioned solution is an example of a Critical Event Management solution. A CEM platform uses technology to take manual processes and automate them. Amplifying ad hoc data feeds to provide richer intelligence and correlating threats with locations of assets and people, ensures more rapid and comprehensive incident assessment and remediation.
Critical event management has come to the fore with the pandemic. Forecasting, planning and management of critical events help organisations and authorities prevent disruption of life and damage to property.
Governments rely on several, specific systems for critical event management. Such programmes are essential to national well-being especially with the increase in natural disasters. But, more often than not, they operate in isolation of each other. According to world experts in Critical Event Management – Everbridge, this siloed approach can create duplication in information and processes, data contradictions and, when unchecked, could lead to loss of life and damages.
Everbridge’s software automates the key steps for responding to a critical event. It aggregates threat data from third-party and internal sources so customers can assess risk, and locate people and assets at risk and those needed to respond.
It then enables customers to act by executing pre-defined processes based on the type of threat for who should be contacted and how what message to send, and who to escalate to if a responder is not available.
Everbridge’s platform then sends out notifications and instructions via text, voice, email—over 100 modalities—in 15 languages as needed, organizes conference bridges for people to collaborate, and analyzes return messages. Automating these steps enables them to be completed quickly, highly reliably and at scale at a time when minutes often matter.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Industry believes digital technology, such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) is it is critical to boosting the productivity of the manufacturing sector, including small and medium industries (IKM) during the pandemic and the new normal thereafter. Such tech deployment would be in accordance with the Making Indonesia 4.0 roadmap.
Director-General of Small, Medium and Miscellaneous Industries (IKMA) of the Ministry of Industry, Gati Wibawaningsih in Jakarta acknowledged that the pandemic had become a global issue for business, especially with the necessary social restrictions. Implementation of distancing normas has caused a shift in lifestyle, work models and business methodology.
In order to reduce the impact of the pandemic, the Ministry of Industry is looking at ways to maintain the activities of domestic business actors by utilising Cloud Computing and IoT based technology platforms. According to Gati, the development of digital technology has led to the creation of many breakthroughs for the manufacturing industry.
The advantages of these two technologies are considered useful in maintaining the business continuity of the IKM sector. Gati conceded that such technology would have a big impact on the SME sector business, especially during this pandemic.
The benefits of using cloud computing range from digital security to network, data centres and capable servers. Additionally, the use of IoT systems will easily interconnect technology, information and communication.
To accelerate the adoption of digital technology in the industrial sector, Gati urged cloud computing and IoT technology providers to support the production process more. This collaboration would be essential to form a solution ecosystem that would bridge the needs of industry and society.
Sutedjo Tjahjadi, Managing Director a cloud business, said the technology makes work very practical and does not need to use large infrastructure; cloud computing can also minimise company expenses. In a digital era, computers are increasingly touching all of our lives, especially during this pandemic and moving online is a critical strategy that must be carried out continuously in future as well.
In line with these trends, the Ministry of Industry launched the Startup4Industry program that would bridge the needs of industry with startup players as technology providers. This program was launched by the Minister of Industry, Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita under the umbrella of Indonesia Is Confident With Domestic Technology.
The Startup4 Industry program Directorate-General of IKMA of the Ministry of Industry, Endang Suwartini, said that the development of immersive technology needs the government’s attention because it is proven to be able to create new jobs and make the industry more efficient. For example, using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR / VR) during this pandemic has increased, initially being used for gaming has been effectively deployed for industry, education, training and tourism.
“The growing development of the AR/VR industry will encourage the electronics industry in Indonesia to start developing research and development for hardware development,” said Endang.
The Chair of the Indonesian AR/VR Association (INVRA), Andes Rizky, agreed this was the time for the Indonesian AR/VR industry to take grow and develop exponentially. Immersive technology as a new business field is recognised by the government through the publication of the 2020 Indonesian Standard Business Classification (KBLI) giving it formal legitimacy and a regulatory framework.
OpenGov Asia recently reported on the accelerated digital transformation of Indonesia’s Industry 4.0. The increased pace is being driven by efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and safety to adapt to the new normal brought about by the pandemic.
The International Science Survey 2019-2020 examined the attitudes of Malaysians towards robots and automation in the workplace, artificial intelligence (AI), and involved 20 countries.
In the survey results released in September, the 1,650 Malaysians polled had mixed views towards the use of robots for workplace automation. About 51% regarded this as bad for society while 45% said it has been good; only 3% felt it has been both good and bad for society.
The Malaysian respondents, who were polled via phone between October to November 2019 in Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, and English, responded to the question of whether they felt using robots to automate many jobs humans have done in the past is mostly a good or bad thing for society on the whole, after considering all the advantages and disadvantages.
Similarly, when asked about the development of AI or computer systems designed to imitate human behaviours, Malaysians had mixed views. About 53%said it has mostly been good for society, while 44% indicated that it has mostly been bad for society. Only 3% said it has been both good and bad for society, and 1% declined to answer or gave other answers.
Malaysians were much significantly keener on space. When asked about the government’s space exploration programme at the National Space Agency (Angkasa), 83% of the 1,650 Malaysians polled said it has been good for society, while 14% said it has been bad for society.
How do other Asian countries view robots and AI?
In the same survey, most of Malaysia’s peers in the Asia-Pacific region displayed a more positive attitude towards the use of robots at the workplace to replace human labour, with comparatively more saying it was a good thing for society in Japan (68%), Taiwan and South Korea’s respondents both at 62%, Singapore (61%).
In India, 47% of respondents said it was good while 27% it was bad, with Australia displaying a mixed view with 47% saying it was bad and 44% saying it was good.
As for the development of AI, about two-thirds or more in most of the Asia-Pacific countries viewed it as a good thing, including 72% of Singapore’s respondents, South Korea (69%), India (67%), Taiwan (66%), Japan (65%), while Australia recorded 49% saying it was good and 39% saying it was bad.
The Pew Research Center referred to its own 2018 survey on the view in 10 developing and developed countries towards job automation by robots and computers to replace the work done by humans currently, with a majority of the respondents thinking that it is likely that people would have a hard time finding jobs and that the inequality or gap between the rich and poor would worsen.
The International Science Survey 2019-2020 of 20 countries generally found that men in most countries were more positive about both robots and AI but the difference between genders was not statistically significant in Malaysia.
When examined according to the gender of the respondents in Malaysia, 50% of women and 55% of men found AI to be a good thing for society, while 43% of women and 48% of men found robots at the workplace to be good. The Center noted that age was not a factor in the respondents’ views in most countries surveyed on the topic of automation.
On the topic of AI, however, 10 of the countries surveyed showed that younger adults (or those younger than the median age of the pool of respondents) are more likely than older adults to say the development of AI has been good. The pollster noted that in Malaysia, the pattern is reversed, with older adults seeing AI more positively than younger adults (57% vs. 49%, respectively).
Education does play a significant role in the views of Malaysian respondents, with 52% of those with less education and 59% of those with more education or who studied beyond secondary school saying AI has been good for society. Correspondingly, for the use of robots to automate jobs, significant differences were found in views based on education levels of Malaysian respondents, with 44% of those with less education and 53% of those with more education viewing automation positively.
On workplace automation, taking more science courses in post-secondary studies also makes a difference for Malaysian respondents, with 49% of those who took zero to two science courses and 61% of those who took three or more science courses saying that using robots to automate human jobs is a good thing.
A spin-off company from NUS, Breathonix Pte Ltd, has developed an easy-to-use breath test to detect COVID-19 within a minute.
This innovative technology, which is believed to be the first in Asia, has achieved more than 90 per cent accuracy in a Singapore-based pilot clinical trial that involved 180 patients.
Breathonix was founded by NUS graduates, Dr Jia Zhunan and Mr Du Fang, and is supported by the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme, a programme that encourages the University’s graduate students and research staff to establish and run high potential start-ups based on deep technologies.
“Our breath test is easy to administer, and it does not require specially-trained staff or laboratory processing. Results are generated in real-time, making it an attractive solution for mass screening, especially in areas with high human traffic. We believe our breath analysis platform shows promise in changing the tides of this pandemic,” said Dr Jia, Chief Executive Officer of Breathonix.
Quick real time diagnosis
The revolutionary breath analysis technology developed by Breathonix offers a fast and convenient solution to identify COVID-19 infection. It works by detecting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) present in a person’s exhaled breath.
Dr Jia explained, “VOCs are consistently produced by various biochemical reactions in human cells. Different diseases cause specific changes to the compounds, resulting in detectable changes in a person’s breath profile. As such, VOCs can be measured as markers for diseases like COVID-19.”
The test is simple to administer. A person only needs to blow into a disposable mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler. The exhaled breath is collected and fed into a cutting-edge mass spectrometer for measurement. A machine learning software analyses the VOC profile and generates the result in less than a minute.
“The disposable mouthpiece that our system uses has a one-way valve and a saliva trap, preventing inhalation and any saliva from entering the machine. This makes cross-contamination unlikely,” said Mr Du, Chief Operating Officer of Breathonix.
Pilot clinical trial conducted in Singapore
The team at Breathonix collaborated with the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), to test their breath analysis system for COVID-19 detection.
In a pilot clinical trial involving 180 patients, Breathonix’s breath test, which uses in-built machine learning algorithms, achieved more than 90 per cent accuracy, with sensitivity-correctly identify those with the disease of 93 per cent, and specificity – correctly identify those without the disease of 95 per cent.
The clinical trial is ongoing, and more tests are required to further improve the accuracy of the technology.
If assessed to be suitable, this breath analysis platform could potentially be deployed in airports to facilitate the recovery of the tourism sector, as well as in places with high human traffic, such as dormitories.
The NUS GRIP team led by Professor Freddy Boey, Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise), is providing advice to Breathonix to obtain regulatory approvals for their technology and to deploy their system for mass screening.
Prof Boey said, “The novel technology to analyse VOCs accurately and quickly was first developed by Dr Jia Zhunan when she was a PhD student, for early detection of lung cancer. The technology was birthed through NUS GRIP, into the start-up Breathonix, and it is now contributing to Singapore’s fight against COVID-19. This demonstrates the huge potential of Singapore’s home-grown technologies and deep-tech start-ups. NUS is proud of the progress Breathonix has made since its inception, and we look forward to seeing their technology being deployed in Singapore in the near future to protect the health and well-being of the community.”
Photo – Breathonix is founded by Dr Jia Zhunan (left) and Mr Du Fang (middle). With them is NUS Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise) Professor Freddy Boey (right).
Vietnam has seen a rapid blossoming of its city areas with the urbanisation rate shooting up from 19.6% in 2009 (629 urban areas) to about 39.25 by the beginning of 2020 (835 urban areas in December 2019).
The Vietnam government is paying close attention to developing smart cities. Many agreements have been signed between Vietnam and important partners such as countries and organisations that have successfully developed smart cities, including the Netherlands, South Korea and India. Most recently, an agreement was signed to develop the ASEAN smart urban network.
Domestically, several state-owned entities have forayed into this sector. In fact, by the first quarter of this year, an additional 35 central cities and provinces had signed strategic cooperation agreements with telecom groups on building smart cities. Military telco Viettel has signed cooperation agreements with 24 localities while the Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group (VNPT) have gone ahead with agreements with another 20 localities.
After Vietnam joined ASCN (ASEAN Smart Cities Network) in two years ago, the Vietnam Smart City Development Project (2018-2025) was released with a vision until 2030. The project has three priority areas – programming smart cities, managing smart cities and smart urban utilities.
Minister of Construction, Pham Hong Ha, said Vietnam will implement the tasks and solutions set in the Vietnam Smart City Development project in 2018-2025. These include a legal framework for the development of smart cities as well as management of tools, institutions and mechanisms for cooperation between ministries and branches, between the central and local government, to ensure smart cities throughout the country and avoid waste in using resources.
Using a linked database, many cities in Vietnam had initial success in providing smart utilities in the fields of education, healthcare, transportation, construction environment. Step-by-step, inclusively, these cities have been optimising urban management, improving the quality of urban residential life and creating opportunities for human development.
Hanoi, for example, is developing a parking system that allows people to find suitable parking places, payment through apps on smartphones and a digital transport map to manage urban traffic.
Driving development towards sustainability, the Bac Ha Noi (Northern Hanoi) Smart City project, covering an area of 272 hectares in Dong Anh district, is expected to improve transport infrastructure, energy, education, healthcare and environment on a digital technology basis,
Meanwhile, HCM City is building a big data infrastructure system, data control centre, security control centre and open data system. It is planning to build smart solutions for healthcare, food safety, education, traffic management and flood control.
Da Nang leads the country in readiness for ICT development and application. Da Nang has been hailed as a leader in applying IT in state agencies. As early as 2018, the Da Nang People’s Committee issued the Overall Architecture of Smart City and Smart City Construction Plan for 2018-2025.
Minister Ha said developing smart cities is in line with international trends, takes full advantage of the achievements of the Industry 4.0 and is in line with the country’s ambitions.
Experts emphasise that lack of reasonable policies will make it difficult for local authorities to seek resources for smart city development, especially capital from the state budget. They believe that Vietnam needs to be cautious when developing smart cities, and not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Central Economic Commission, said it is necessary to have an ‘open and creative’ approach when developing smart cities.
Smart cities should be developed with people in the centre, and be based on specific characteristics of each city. Before applying a development model, each city needs to check its resources and advantages and ascertain where and what it needs for each stage to effectively use existing facilities and investment resources.
The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) showcased a portfolio of its cutting-edge 5G technologies at the PT EXPO China 2020 in Beijing which was held from 14 to 16 October 2020.
Adopting the theme of “Promote 5G for an Intelligent Future”, ASTRI demonstrated its technologies and innovations that enhance the competitive strength of enterprises in Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area and around the world. These technologies include:
- 5G O-RAN Solution
- Industrial IoT applications
- 5G OpenUPF
- Ground-breaking Terabit 5G Standalone Core Network
- AR Intelligent Maintenance
- IoT Blockchain
- 5G Smart Mobility solution
The Chief Executive Officer of ASTRI stated that the agency’s technology and innovation must always serve a practical need in society. He noted that the organisation was delighted to have the opportunity to showcase so many of these ground-breaking success stories in one place, allowing them to truly demonstrate how wide-ranging and impactful their work is.
The PT EXPO China 2020 is hosted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. It is one of Asia’s largest and most influential Information and Communications Technology (ICT) events, exploring the impact of next-generation technologies across a variety of industries, as well as trends in the market. Last year, the event had more than 81,000 attendees and hosted over 400 exhibitors.
The Vice-President, Communications Technologies at ASTRI remarked that the agency’s network solution is fully compliant with 3GPP standard and low-cost. It can realise new application scenarios including private networks, Internet of Vehicles, industrial Internet and mobile phone OS cloudification etc., bringing 5G into the market quickly with valued services.
ASTRI’s 5G O-RAN Solution is an end-to-end 5G network solution, which complies with 3GPP standards and, through its flexibility, low cost and ease of deployment remove a traditional cost barrier to the industry looking to make the most of the 5G network. Our Industrial IoT applications include the development of simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) and robot navigation software running over a 5G network with industrial AGVs.
China Mobile’s 5G OpenUPF (User Plane Function) will enable open and flexible 5G deployment in network edge and drive vertical applications. ASTRI is one of the first members to have joined the OpenUPF initiative.
ASTRI has been working closely with an American multinational corporation and technology company in 5G technology development, including 5G core network, O-RAN development, 5G OpenUPF, and V2X infrastructure technology. They have worked together to optimise software and hardware to enable scalable 5G UPF. They also combined to deliver a ground-breaking performance of more than 1Tbps 5G UPF data throughput earlier in 2020.
Further, ASTRI also collaborated with a Hong-Kong-based technological company to introduce a jointly developed AR Intelligent Maintenance solution, designed to transform field engineers’ operations and maintenance processes. ASTRI has also developed an innovative IoT Blockchain platform that can securely monetise and strategically exploit enormous amounts of IoT data in real-time.
ASTRI and a Chinese multinational technology company also jointly demonstrated a 5G Smart Mobility solution that combines with ultra-low latency C-V2X communication and 5G edge intelligence to improve road safety and traffic efficiency.
The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) was founded by the HKSAR Government 20 years ago with the mission of enhancing Hong Kong’s competitiveness in technology-based industries through applied research.
The agency’s core R&D competence in various areas is grouped under five Technology Divisions; Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics; Communications; Cybersecurity, Cryptography and Trusted Technologies; Integrated Circuits and Systems; and IoT and Sensors. It focuses on five areas of application including Smart City; Financial Technologies; Intelligent Manufacturing; Health Technologies; and Application Specific Integrated Circuits.
For decades now, ASTRI has nurtured a pool of research, I&T talents and received numerous international awards for its pioneering innovations as well as outstanding business and community contributions. To date, ASTRI has transferred more than 750 technologies to the industries and owns more than 850 patents in the Mainland, the US and other countries.
As a professor of Sustainable Land Management at Murdoch, Professor Richard Bell is fifteen years into a research journey that’s transforming agriculture in Bangladesh. The results are changing the lives of farmers, entrepreneurs and their families across the country.
He noted that there are lots of examples of international scientists going to developing countries with bright ideas, which is all very well. “But you’ve got to sit and talk to the local people and get their ideas to develop technology that gets used,” he commented.
Alongside a network of local academics, entrepreneurs and farmers, Professor Bell developed a new system of cropping for small farms and invented the small-scale machinery to make it possible. The team mechanized a system of planting where less than 25% of the soil is disturbed to place seed and fertiliser and keep the remnants of the previous crop in the field as a cover of the soil. It’s a type of agriculture called ‘conservation agriculture’, Professor Bell explained. The technology will help farmers in Bangladesh and, hopefully, other developing nations efficiently sow seed.
This type of cropping has spread to over 170 million hectares worldwide, but 85% of that is in five countries; Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the United States. Each of these countries has big farms and big machines, making the system easy to implement.
It has been a very profitable technique for the farming industries in these places due to the time and fuel saved, and it has reduced soil erosion. As compared to conventional farming, where you need to plough the soil two to three times and then seed, conservation agriculture requires a single operation for the sowing of seed.
However, the trouble is that this technique hasn’t spread in small farms as it’s not possible to get four-wheel tractors into these areas and big machinery isn’t accessible. Thus, the team is pioneering the system for Bangladesh, where the field sizes are much smaller.
Identifying the opportunity
The Professor first got involved in Bangladesh in 2005 trying to promote pulses – chickpeas and lentils – which are important parts of the national diet. Pulses seemed to be difficult to grow and were disappearing from the farming systems when the team arrived. When irrigation became available, farmers switched over to growing more rice and wheat and the legumes were squeezed out.
So, the team started this project to promote the growth of pulses and realised one of the constraints was that straight after rice harvest, the soil was wet, but dried rapidly. One must plant lentils and chickpeas very quickly after harvest to grow a decent crop without irrigation.
Getting those pulse crops to grow depending on the speed with which farmers could sow the seeds, but the traditional methods with bullock and plough were too slow. So, the research team began developing small machinery that could be used to plant crops very quickly.
The team collaborated with a retired farmer from New South Wales to design these lightweight, simple and relatively easy to manufacture machines that would help the locals sow their crops faster. This design was refined over time with a colleague in Bangladesh, based on feedback from user trials. And that’s been the key – with this project and any other – the technology has to be accepted by the users.
The research team now partners with a small business in Bangladesh to make and sell these seeding machines locally.
Scaling the technology
One of the most common pieces of farming machinery in Bangladesh is the small two-wheel tractor. These are mainly operated by small business people, who use them to provide ploughing, transport, pumping and other services for farmers.
There are 700,000 of these two-wheel tractors in Bangladesh and the team is working to convince as many service providers as possible to offer a seeding service using the technology, the team developed which allows for conservation agriculture. The technology can be easily integrated into farmers’ seeding routines and will propel local farmers into the next generation of farming.
The team has delivered over 3000 on-farm demonstrations to prove the seeding machinery technology they developed works and also provides a range of incentives to locals who buy the machines. One of those incentives includes underwriting a free season of seeding for the farming customers of local service providers, to encourage take-up of conservation agriculture.
Their modelling shows that operators can buy the seeding machines and pay them off in two years, which makes it a viable and attractive opportunity for local service providers to add to their offering. On this basis, the research team has engaged banks to encourage them to provide finance to local service providers and established a farmer network of nearly 10,000 farmers to promote conservation agriculture. Eventually, the team of collaborators will step aside and let the system run itself.