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In the Philippines, stakeholders are charting the future of digital agriculture

Policymakers, scientists, technology experts, and farmers convened to contextualize the current landscape, identify barriers and opportunities, and chart the future of digital agriculture in the Philippines.

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines (29 May 2024) - The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna became a hub of digital agricultural innovation as it hosted the Philippine leg of the highly anticipated ICTforAg 2024. This year’s theme, “Localizing Impact through Inclusion, Inspiration, and Innovation,” underscored the need to tailor digital solutions to local agricultural landscapes' unique challenges and opportunities. 

Co-hosted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the Department of Agriculture Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI), ICTforAg kicked off with an opening program where Dr. Yvonne Pinto, IRRI Director General warmly welcomed the participants, and highlighted IRRI’s commitment to driving digital innovation in the sector “Together, we are leveraging information and communication technologies to drive transformative change in the agriculture sector,” she stated.

The event, attended by a diverse mix of policymakers, researchers, farmers, and technology enthusiasts, showcased the intersection of agriculture and technology in the Philippines. An exhibit viewing session also commenced where attendees explored cutting-edge technologies and initiatives that promise to transform agriculture.

The keynote address, delivered by Engr. Christopher Morales, DA Undersecretary for Rice Industry Development, discussed the government’s efforts to integrate digital tools into rice farming practices.

“As we look to the future, we envision a Philippine agriculture sector where digital technologies are a cornerstone of our national growth. However, this journey cannot be without challenges, and we must address issues such as digital literacy among farmers, infrastructure limitations, and data security,” said Usec. Christopher Morales.

In the face of climate change and fluctuating market prices, a shift to a more digital landscape in the agriculture sector can highly benefit farmers. In the Philippines, high labor costs are key factors in the country's lower rice production efficiency. To remain competitive, farmers can adopt ICT tools such as satellite remote sensing, drone mapping, and digital literacy programs. These technologies can boost yields, enhance productivity, and ensure food security.

Through several breakout sessions and plenary talks, ICTforAg delved into these various innovative projects and programs revolutionizing agriculture in the Philippines. Topics like linking producers and consumers through digital platforms, data-driven decision-making, and the digital agriculture landscape in the Philippines, highlighting tools like D4AgPH and the Global Market Intelligence Platform (GloMIP), showcased innovative applications of precision spraying using vision-based velocity estimation.

Other notable projects were also discussed such as Project SARAI, which utilizes satellite remote sensing to provide critical data for crop estimation and yield prediction, enabling local government units to monitor agricultural areas efficiently. 

Social startups like Kita Agritech and GoEdenPH also talked about ways to bridge the digital divide by offering AI-driven crop models, financial literacy education, and creating the largest online agricultural supply platform, fostering trust and digital adoption among farmers. 

Innovative approaches in urban farming and precision agriculture were also highlighted, with SIGLA project’s indoor vertical farming with solar-powered modular farms, as well as drone technologies, revolutionizing pineapple and rice farming, with projects like Del Monte Philippines' drone mapping platforms and Drones4Rice

These technological advancements, combined with robust training programs and multi-stakeholder cooperations, position the Philippines to achieve greater agricultural resilience, productivity, and food security. “As we explore innovative solutions, it is essential that these technologies are not only sustainable but also inclusive. Together, we can forge pathways that will ensure that these advancements in agricultural technology leave no one behind,” said UPLB Chancellor Jose V. Camacho, Jr.

The ICTforAg in Los Baños showcased the future of agri-tech in the Philippines, emphasizing the continuous innovation that poses a potential transformation of the country's agricultural landscape. The discussions throughout the event emphasize the crucial expansion and the impact of these advancements on the future of agriculture, especially for farmers. As Assistant Director of DA-ATI Antonieta J. Arceo aptly stated, “ICT is not just about improving yields and profits, but also about empowering our farmers, preserving our environment, and ensuring food security for future generations.”