Move to ensure food security through smart farming

Muscat: The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries announced the bidding for a Smart Agriculture project for vegetable production in Al Kamil and Al Wafi in Sharqiya Governorate.

Smart Agriculture is a system that relies on advanced technology to grow food in a sustainable and clean way. The system involves rational use of natural resources, especially water. Its most prominent feature is reliance on low cost information management and analysis systems to make the best possible production decisions as well as automating agricultural processes such as irrigation, pest control, soil monitoring, and crop control.

Thus, smart farms have a real potential of sustainable and good production based on a resource-efficient approach.

This comes as a part of the Sultanate’s intention to invest in smart agriculture, which is the future of sustainable food security at a time when the world witnesses significant increase in population.

The smart farming can emerge as a right solution to address the concerns of food security as well as the challenges of preserving arable land, especially with the aggravation of climate change problems, depletion of oil resources, and pollution of water and soil.

To keep pace with this steady increase, farmers must increase food production while preserving the environment, and use rational resources naturally, but they cannot do it alone, and traditional farming methods do not enable them to do so.

Dr Hamdan al Wahaibi, Director of Soil and Water Research Center at the ministry, indicated that the ministry seeks to spread the culture of smart agriculture and its applications in the Sultanate.

“In light of climate changes and their impact on water resources besides the problem of desertification and land degradation due to salinity, the Sultanate came out with the concept of smart agriculture the application of which can improve agriculture production and enhance food security in future,” he said.

Commenting on the Sultanate’s climatic condition he said, “The Sultanate is located in the arid zone, with high temperatures in summer and limited freshwater resources for agriculture. Thus, the application of smart agriculture will contribute to increasing crop productivity with the least amount of water and overcoming the impact of the aridity on agricultural production.”

As modern technologies play a crucial role in helping to meet the growing nutritional needs of the world’s population through the use of data management and analysis systems, and remote control technologies, the use of the most prominent techniques of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as artificial intelligence, robot and the Internet of things, make agriculture more productive and profitable and less harmful to the environment and less consumption of land resources.

However, Al Wahaibi explained that there had been limited use of this form of agriculture in the country. “There are many challenges in front of smart agriculture in Oman. These techniques require skills and experience whereas most of the labourers working in the agriculture are unqualified. Also, smart agriculture depends on infrastructure such as internet network, so any weakness on those networks also affects the applications of smart agriculture,” he added, and confirmed that Oman has already implemented successful projects by using smart agriculture such as using drones in some application in addition to hydroponics agriculture, aquaponics and advance technologies in irrigation and fertilisation are in practice.” He added that the scale for this is not vast.