Dr. Teerakiat Kerdcharoen is the lecturer at Faculty of Science, Mahidol University who founded the Smart Farm page. He will reveal the agricultural problems behind the outbreak of Covid-19 and the way forward for farmers. Dr. Teerakiat begins out chat with, “For farmers, the bigger problem than Covid-19 is climate change which sets off a chain reaction of other effects. The future of food is one example. The pandemic accelerates our awareness of this problem. We can see that the stocks of meat substitute companies in the U.S. rise considerably because people begin to feel that meat is dirty and animals are the source of virus.
Find the right area for agriculture Due to the change in land condition, some areas gain benefits. For example, in some areas, plants can grow better but in others, they grow worse. “China has adapted by looking for new agricultural areas in Africa, Brazil or Argentina. If we want to make use of climate change, we should do this.”
Try indoor farming where we can use climate control to enable year-round harvests. “We can use AI to manage farming or even electricity bills. For example, in Japan, they’d know to turn on the artificial light when electricity costs less. During the peak period, they’d turn off the light to let the plants sleep. They run the calculation all the time until their farms make profits.
Adopting the science of Smart Farming such as changing Crop Schedule, using IOT sensor technology to collect farming information (big data) in order to make the right decision. This is how farmers can develop immunity to climate change.
Geoengineering “For example, changing the river course. China currently runs the project that transfers the water from south to north for farming. Or Bill Gates’ patented radical idea of changing a storm’s path”.
“At present, from aiming to become a medical hub, Singapore has changed its direction into food hub and food tech. They have many startups making plant-based meat alternatives as well as farming insects and crickets. They have floating fish farming technology and lab-grown meat startups that can grow prawn meat. They can even grow mother milk from cells. As for growing crops, they’ve seen that it must be done domestically and try to find a way to do it in case of the next crisis. All food importing countries have been alerted. So we will decrease our dependency on long distance and turn to near distance instead.”
“I think that after Covid-19, people will be more health conscious. We can focus on the herb and food sectors such as novel food that also doubles as medical food. I think our strength will no longer be on pricing. We may have to find a new strength or selling point. We could say that if you eat meat exported from Thailand, it’ll definitely be virus-free. But we have to restructure. Pig farms, for example, must be operated to the standard of cleanliness. We must convince people that Thailand will be free of virus. People can travel through our country. Our agricultural products are reliable. And there are tourist attractions that can be turned into agricultural attractions as well.”
Interview Date : 7 May 2020
Interview : Patcharin Pattanaboonpaiboon | Edit : Wanabud Yupakaset