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Smart tech gives boost to Kaohsiung’s small-scale farmers

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Smart tech gives boost to Kaohsiung’s small-scale farmers

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Artificial intelligence isn”t usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about farming. But today, with global warming underway, farmers are reaching for new technologies to stay ahead of a shifting climate. Today in our Sunday special report, we head down to Kaohsiung to visit Yonglin Farm, a high-tech pioneer. Join us as we see how they”ve incorporated smart tech to optimize operations.

At this farm, everything from growing to harvesting and even marketing is supported by advanced technology.

Lee Min-tsang, a consultant at Yonglin Farm, carefully inspects each leaf. If he discovers a disease or pests, he photographs it and uploads it to the farm”s smart agriculture management platform, informing the farm”s phytopathologist. This smart platform was designed by Yonglin Farm and is its pride and joy. In recent years, farmers have increasingly turned to smart technology to cope with extreme weather brought by global warming. Farming was once about watching the skies. It”s now about integrating AI.

Tsai Tung-tsuan
Professor
In Taiwan, heat stress is major problem. Second to that is the water supply issue, followed by the accumulation of salts. Detection systems are a huge help. You don”t need to dig up plants and send them to the school for testing. You can get clear information from the sensors.

Here in the farm”s experimental orchard, these passion fruits are different from those grown traditionally. These fruits are grown away from the soil, to prevent their water source from becoming a medium for disease transmission. Aside from this, the orchard is equipped with sensors to monitor growth.

Liu Wei-ting
Yonglin Farm
The main purpose of this device is to monitor the plants in the greenhouse, and collect their EC and PH levels, as well as the moisture levels in the soil. It transmits the data directly to the smart platform. The next time I plant seedlings, I can adjust the fertilizer content based on the data it collects.

Soil, temperature, moisture – through this small sensor and the data lines connected to it, all of these things can be measured and graphed on the computer. The upgraded version can even be integrated with hardware on the farm. Once levels reach a specified measurement, the system will automatically activate fans and sprinklers.

Liu Wei-ting
Yonglin Farm
These days in Taiwan, we basically don”t have a fall season like we used to, and winters don”t really get cold. Spring on the other hand, just like spring this year, has become cooler. So the whole of the seasons is unlike the way they were in the past. If I use some technological farming equipment, it can help me to record environmental conditions over the course of the year. When I look back at the year, I can run analyses based on this data.

Liu Wei-ting, who studied agriculture, said that very few of his classmates ended up working in the industry. But Liu himself takes delight in the hardships of farming.

Liu wei-ting
Yonglin Farm
To me, harvesting the passion fruit is relatively interesting. It”s easier than harvesting vegetables in a greenhouse. Each passion fruit I pick fills me with a sense of accomplishment.

Before each passion fruit reaches the hands of a consumer, it goes through one food safety check after another.

Liu carries infected fruit samples to the farm”s research center. This is one of the few organic microorganism laboratories in the country.

The lab conducts rigorous testing on the fruit and vegetables brought there. After all, as the largest organic farm in the country, Yonglin Farm grows over 300 types of produce annually. From food safety to production and marketing, at no step of the way can it afford to be careless.

From sprouting to harvest, these vegetables take 45 days to produce. Before they can be packaged, they must undergo pressure cooling, which slows their aging process, and extends their shelf life to seven or eight days. Before packages are shipped off, they are graded and separated by quality.

Lin Ya-ping
Yonglin Farm
After the vegetables are taken out of the cooling process, we still need to put them through a “beauty contest.” After that beauty contest, they end up in front of the consumer and when the consumer is choosing a package they get that feeling like, “Wow, this one is mine.”

In this 16-degree temperature packaging room, roughly a dozen people are working away. After manual separation, the best vegetables are sent to an automatic packaging machine. A sticker with production information is affixed, and the packages are boxed up to be shipped off to market.

Lower-grade vegetables are not to be wasted. After being cut up and roasted, they are added to brown rice and put through a machine, which turns the mixture into rice

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