Bottle Necks in High-Tech Agriculture

In 2017, the government issued Resolution 120/NQ-CP for the development of a sustainable agricultural industry to proactively respond to recurring climate change and achieve 80% contribution ratio in total agricultural production in the Mekong Delta. However, even the application of high technology in agriculture to improve quality in production has not been effective as it continually faces several barriers which now need to be clarified and resolved.

Lack of collaboration 
In the last few years, Research Institutes in the Mekong Delta have been doing several studies on creative methods to enhance agricultural activities. 
Many companies and farmers have been applying new methods in plantations, live-stock breeding and aquaculture. However, the space for developing a high-tech agricultural industry in the Mekong Delta region is still minimal and fragmented.
 The application of high technology in agricultural production cannot work on its own, and will only succeed when there is a change in perception, and  better marketing and planning mechanism.
Small fragmented land banks, micro farmers, and non-focused investments are some of the main reasons leading to ineffective results. The industry lacks any planned integration to effectively organize all related areas such as breeding, input, production, harvesting, manufacturing and product selling. This is also creating setbacks in applying high technology to the whole process.
The agriculture picture of Mekong Delta is haphazardly spread across 2,500 smaller and widely fragmented areas. The developing plans are subjective and lack scientific basis and practical experience. The developing plan just focuses on the different problems of different locals, but does not concentrate on integrating activities and adapting to different ecosystems in this area.
There are also some developing projects which don’t have the resources to be implemented. The government managed schemes are over complicated and lack collaboration.
Bottle Necks in High-Tech Agriculture ảnh 1 Farmers used drone to spray pesticides. Photo: HOANG HUNG 
According to the 2020 plan issued by the Prime Minister, the Mekong Delta is divided into three agricultural zones in Hau Giang, Can Tho and Bac Lieu. The authorities plan to add Tien Giang area also by 2030. However, up until now, every province has its own agricultural zone already, and investment resources for these are limited. These zones are constrained by province borders, making them very fragmented. Reorganization and integration is needed in planning to resolve these current problems.
Furthermore, the Mekong Delta is just applying the high-tech agricultural model physically without support from authorities, hence mindset for high-tech agriculture has misguided perceptions. The terms of green, smart, high quality, high-tech agriculture are mentioned many times but people seem to understand them very differently and also inconsistently. Some high-tech agricultural zones were just created because high-tech is the hot trend, so there is a lack of long-term planning without focused and organized investment. 

Products must meet market demand
Bringing products to the market is the key factor defining the success of the process. The high-tech agricultural model is strongly impacted by technology development in the agriculture industry.
 Those farmers using high technology in agriculture need guidance and support of investors, enterprises, scientists, as well as the government. 
Frankly speaking, enterprises and farmers in the Mekong Delta have been showing interest and ability in applying some modern technologies, such as in plantations, live-stock breeding and aquaculture. Some technologies, which were just in our dreams previously, can now be applied successfully.
We frequently see some farmers sitting in coffee shops these days, watching over their farm activities on smartphone screens. Loc Troi Group (An Giang) and Rynan Holdings (Tra Vinh) have been applying information technology, cloud computing, e-commerce, and remote technology in producing and manufacturing agricultural goods.
Watching over farm activities via smartphones, and watering the plants by remote system are popular in growing rice, fruits and other crops in the Mekong Delta.
However, the mismatch in supply and demand of agricultural products happens regularly in the market, creating many challenges for both enterprises and farmers in investing in high-tech agricultural zone. Constructing greenhouses with modern technology needs big investments, while the current capital resources from the government, enterprises and farmers is very limited. Hence, we need an easy credit mechanism.

The issuance of ownership certificates of assets, such as green-houses, net-houses, equipment, irrigation systems, quality control systems, still faces many problems.
Moreover, the field of science and technology is underdeveloped in Vietnam. The brand names of agricultural products are not well known. The copy rights, intellectual property rights, inventions have not been protected, and sufficient data in science and technology market is limited.
The standards and requirements for high-tech agricultural products are not clear. The high-tech products are not differentiated from traditional, low-tech, low-quality products. The current legal framework is not strong enough to protect investors, manufacturers, farmers and govern the responsibilities of traders to clarify the origin of products to build customer trust on high-tech agricultural products. This situation in turn impacts badly on the development of high-tech agriculture industry.

Integration needed
Mekong Delta needs a more practical and effective solution in agriculture development. For this, the government should complete all legal frameworks, create an operating mechanism and policies for activities in high-tech know-how.
The government should conduct studies, review and amend the current regulations to resolve the problems and clear bottle necks, especially regulations related to high-tech agriculture.
The government should encourage and spur the creation and innovation of related activities in agriculture. It should support enterprises and farmers in building brand names and reputation, protect their copy rights and intellectual property rights, while also having more policies to attract other investment sources.
The government should remove physical borders in developing the green agriculture industry. It should build an environment for integration of different enterprises, collaboration between enterprises and farmers, and cooperation between different farmers to form a strong model and supply chain in agriculture production. Authorities should avoid fragmented producing, should not allow every province to build its own high-tech agricultural zone as the investment resource is very limited.
Building and running pilot phases of high-tech agricultural zones must be based on the development of science and technology, especially biotechnology. It should apply the integration model, and modern management method. It should use new technology in producing seeds and breeds, quickly multiplying high yield varieties. The authorities should increase cooperation in scientific studies, apply technology in the entire production process such as cultivation, harvesting, storing, processing, manufacturing, transporting and product selling.
The government should encourage the development of science and technology market and develop human resources to meet the demand of high-tech agriculture. It should have a favorable mechanism to motivate investments in Science Institutes. Government should also train, educate and create high-skill labor for these technology institutions as well as for enterprises to conduct studies and application methods of high technology in agricultural production. 

Dr. Tran Huu Hiep

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