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Agritech essential for a less oil-reliant economy

Oman has emphasised the need to upgrade and expand the agriculture sector, as well as to promote its export potential. The economic development policies have emphasised expanding such non-oil sectors as agriculture, fishing, industry, and mining, as it seeks to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil exports.

Targeted investments aimed at improving food security have seen advances by Oman’s agricultural and fisheries sectors, as the government searches for ways to support its growing population and promote a more diverse economy. Agricultural and fisheries sectors in Oman saw growth of 9.8 per cent in 2019-20, in spite of Covid-19.

The growth in digital agriculture and associated technologies has opened up vast new data opportunities. With increasing technology usage in farms through tools such as sensors and drones, increasing amounts of data are being collected about soil types, nutrition, crop diseases, irrigation practices, and other factors that may contribute to farmers credit profiles.

The use of technology such as this helps address information asymmetries and deficiencies faced by farmers, especially small-scale farmers, that could increase farm productivity and reduce costs, as well as helping to mitigate environmental impacts of farming activities.

Technologies could contribute to transforming the worlds food-production system, as well as mitigating its impacts on climate and environment. Artificial intelligence, analytics, connected sensors, and other emerging technologies could further improve crop productivity, improve the efficiency of water and other inputs, and create resilience and sustainability in crop production and livestock rearing.

The main drivers for improved farm productivity and higher incomes are farmers adopting innovations in technologies and practices.

The success of any agriculture technology ultimately depends on the speed at which it is adopted among farmers, especially small-scale farmers.

We can ascribe a lot of that success to farmers who adapt to and adopt the new technologies.

A new generation of extension services is now needed to accelerate small-scale farmers adoption of digital technologies, especially in developing countries.

Extension services must focus more and more on developing systems for farm innovation, which allow smallholder farmers to be involved in adopting technologies like the ones discussed in this issue of frontier technologies.

The private sector, in turn, could spur faster adoption of new technologies by farmers. New funding vehicles would also be crucial to the procurement of the climate-resistant equipment and seeds needed to bolster small-scale farming.

Vertical farms could help us produce more food using less land, less water, and without harmful pesticides, while drone and satellite technologies could enable farmers to assess crop conditions and cut down their dependence on harmful fertilisers. New precision farming companies are developing technologies that enable farmers to maximise crop production while controlling all variables of a crops field, such as moisture levels, pest pressures, soil conditions, and microclimates.

Future farming will utilise complex technologies like robots, temperature and humidity sensors, aerial imagery, and GPS technologies.

Emerging technologies like IoT, ML/AI, blockchain, drones, micro-sensors, robotics, cloud computing, and more are poised to turn this primitive sector into a precision, data-driven sector.

Developing countries must significantly boost farm innovations and farmers use of technology in order to end poverty, address rising demand for food, and address the negative impacts of climate change, according to a new World Bank report.

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