Farmers embrace livestreams, high-tech advances for better quality, productivity hinh anh 1An organic red-flesh dragon fruit orchard in Long An province’s Chau Thanh district. (Photo: VNA)


HCM
City (VNS/VNA) –
Farmer Le Van Chin from the southern province of
Long An recently livestreamed an advert about his cooperative’s
red-flesh dragon fruit on his Facebook page.

“Hi
everyone! Here is the dragon fruit garden of Que My Thanh
Cooperative. After 25 days of harvest, it has a thin peel and red
flesh. Rest assured we never use any harmful chemicals
to spray the fruit. We guarantee that it is healthy and
tasty,” he told viewers. 

“I
livestream various stages such as farming, harvesting and packaging to
create consumer confidence about my product,” he said.

Amid
the COVID-19 pandemic, Chin was one of thousands of farmers who
decided to sell directly on social network sites such as Facebook,
Zalo and others. 

No
official statistics about the number of farmers using livestreaming
exist, but it has become increasingly common. Livestreams on social
networks and e-commerce platforms in Vietnam have attracted hundreds
of thousands of views a day.

Nguyen
Duc Tung, general secretary of the Vietnam Digital Agricultural Association,
said that more farmers were selling online directly to consumers
without intermediaries, which has helped lower prices. 

To
do business online, farmers had learned more about photography,
sales and communication skills to engender trust among consumers, he
said.

According
to Nguyen Manh Tan, marketing director of Haravan, which provides
e-commerce and retail solutions, farmers only need a smartphone and
Facebook account to conduct a livestream. 

Selling
on Facebook or Zalo is easier than on e-commerce platforms, which
have more requirements such as packaging specifications and legal
conditions.

Since
packaging, storage and transport can be done better by distributors,
farmers often livestream their products directly from their fields or gardens
to distributors.  

Despite
online trends, a number of high-quality, affordable agricultural products
that meet export standards are still absent on major e-commerce
platforms such as Tiki, Sendo and Voso. 

One
of the main reasons for the low consumption of “clean” agricultural
products on e-commerce platforms is the life cycle of the
product. 

Vu
Kim Hanh, chairwoman of the High Quality Vietnamese Product Business
Association, said that fresh agricultural products were less popular on
e-commerce sites because the life cycle was too short. 

Nguyen
Dac Viet Dung, chairman of the board of directors of Sen Do Joint-Stock
Company, said if the life cycles could be extended, buyers
would feel more secure about purchasing organic or clean products on
e-commerce sites.

Digital
transformation 

Farmer
Chin, who is the director of the Que My Thanh Dragon Fruit Cooperative in
Long An Province’s Tan Tru District, decided to shift his family’s
four-hectare red-flesh dragon fruit garden to a natural direction
without using chemicals, and embrace digital technology.

“I
have gradually shifted to organic fertiliser and bio-products to grow quality
dragon fruit and use efficient irrigation methods like automatic
spraying and drip irrigation to save water.”

Chin
is one of the partner farmers of Food Connect, a project of the Food Network
Joint-Stock Company, that aims to link farmers with consumers through
technology platforms. 

Under
the project, training sessions on e-commerce and transparent production
processes are provided to farmers to help them save costs by
avoiding a middleman, thereby reducing prices for
consumers.  

The
cooperative, which has 22 hectares of cultivated dragon fruit, sells its
products to fruit chains across the country. 

“Despite
their somewhat ugly appearance and shape, the fruit is popular
with local consumers because of the quality. Also the first batch of dragon
fruit was exported to Dubai,” Chin said. “Consumers can scan the
QR code on the product to know the exact origin.”

Dr
Tu Minh Thien, rector at Van Hien University in Ho Chi Minh City, said the
use of advanced technology had contributed to nearly 35 percent of the
growth value of agriculture in Vietnam in the last five years.

In
the field of irrigation, drip, sprinkler and underground irrigation
systems are being used on different terrains, making watering more
accessible. Such systems are typically attached to a flow controller
which provides fertiliser for crops.

Techniques
from the biotechnology field are also being used in farming, such
as gene mapping of plants. Advanced techniques such as ELISA and PCR
are used in the diagnosis and identification of viral diseases
of plants. 

In
wet-rice production, biotechnology is also being used to breed rice
varieties, with slow-soluble fertilisers and saltwater warning systems in
Soc Trang, Dong Thap, and Tra Vinh provinces.

“Biotechnology
applications are an effective solution for sustainable agriculture and for
limiting the impact of climate change,” Dr Thien said.

Blockchain
is another technology that is being used in product traceability and
supply chain management in Long An, Tien Giang, Dong Thap and other provinces. 

In Dong
Thap and Ben Tre provinces, technological advances have improved
the monitoring of automatic irrigation systems by quickly
identifying the watering level of a tree, for example, and alerting farmers to
the exact location of the water shortage area.

The
systems, which use GPS and automatic routing to cover an entire
plantation, are mounted on drones that fly 20-30 metres above
crop fields, such as banana or fruit tree plantations.

Despite
these advances, high-tech applications in Vietnam’s agriculture have not been
widely implemented on a household scale, and most are being used
at large enterprises and cooperatives due to the high investment costs and
unstable market prices of fruits and vegetables.

Large enterprises
that have invested in these applications include Vingroup, PAN Group, Hoang
Anh Gia Lai, and Loc Troi Group, among others.

They
offer farmers and cooperatives guidance on production
processes, train farmers who want to produce clean
products, and provide technical and seed support. 

The enterprises also
aim to improve quality control during processing and before
harvesting, and to support product brand development.

Nguyen
Thi Thanh Thuc, a member of the executive committee of the Vietnam Digital
Agriculture Association, said that digital transformation in agriculture must
begin with farmers.

In supply
chains, each farmer must be a “trader” who understands the market.
The stakeholders of the chains should regularly communicate with each
other to maintain sustainable and long-term cooperation. 

Thực has
been working with farmers to develop an agricultural e-Journal, create QR
codes, and promote the use of traceability of origin and geographical
indication (GIs).

Dr.
Nguyen Quoc Toan, director of the Agro Processing and Market Development
Authority, said that digital transformation would ensure transparency
in the market.

“Farmers
must be the key players to ensure the success of digital transformation in
agriculture,” he said. 

Benefits
will include lower production costs, less waste, less water consumption and
better quality, according to the director. 

Advances
in machinery in recent years have helped to expand the scale,
speed and productivity of farm equipment, leading to more efficient
cultivation of more land. Seeds, irrigation and fertilisers have
vastly improved as well, helping farmers increase yields.

Artificial
intelligence (AI), analytics, connected sensors and other emerging
technologies further increase yields, improve the efficiency of water and
other inputs, and build sustainability and resilience.

Automation
technology, drones, spectral imagery and the use of robots and
unmanned aerial vehicles also help to reduce operational expenditures
and labour costs. 

In
addition, increased use of livestock biometrics ensures maintenance of
livestock health and has a direct impact on the increase in yield of dairy
products.

Challenges 

In
coming years, the agricultural sector is set to face serious
challenges. Growing populations, rising affluence and urbanisation, for
example, have increased the threat to global food security.

The world
population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion by 2050 and demand for
food will rise by 50 percent, according to reports from global
organisations.

During
this period, climate change is expected to reduce harvests by 17 percent, while
arable land will shrink by 20 percent.

A
more resilient food future will rely on agricultural research and
development, and better alignment of government finance and incentives for
farmers who use sustainable and climate-smart production processes.

It
will also rely on a steep change in access to information, innovative
technologies, and finance to enhance the resilience of millions of
small-scale farming households whose livelihoods are most critically impacted
by climate change.

Productivity and a
sufficient supply of quality food must increase, while natural resources
remain protected.

Nguyen
Khac Minh Tri, CEO of Mimosa Technology Ltd., said that new applications
in agriculture such as IoT (Internet of Things), blockchain, big data and
AI would open up a new era in which new practices would produce
more food with fewer resources and without harming the environment.

However,
the transformation progress remains slow in Vietnam, according to Tri. Most
applications that are now in the pilot phase aim to prove the benefits to
farmers and other stakeholders in agricultural supply chains.

Although
some farmers are now able to manage irrigation on smartphones
with IoT solutions or mark their brand with QR codes for traceability on blockchain
platforms, this is only happening with a few early adopters.

Application
of technology is in the early stages, and more time is needed to transform
technology from “good-to-have” to “must-have”, according to Tri.

Since
more than 70 percent of Vietnam’s agricultural products are from 22
million smallholder farmers, local agri-businesses should not
depend solely on major corporations to promote innovative
solutions.

Solutions
must be identified for smallholder farmers to apply technology,
but smallholder farmers entering mass markets is not an easy task
because farmers have used the same practices for thousands of years.
Changing their mindsets will take a long time, according to Tri.

One
of the main obstacles is limited capital, because switching to high-tech
agriculture requires a considerable up-front investment, experts have said. 

Another
major problem is market and consumer confidence. Building brands and
winning customer confidence are both essential for Vietnamese brands so
they can take advantage of major export markets like the EU under the new
EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). 

Farmer
Chin from Long An Province, who embraced technology early, is also aware
of the obstacles that must be overcome. 

“Farmers
are willing to embrace digital transformation and switch to natural
farming as long as stable sales are ensured. I will continue to do
livestreaming so that everyone can understand how dragon fruit is being grown
without chemicals.”/.



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