Dr Nguyễn Đức Tùng, General Secretary of the Việt Nam Digital Agriculture Association. Photo nongnghiep.vn
Việt Nam's agriculture sector is facing three main challenges – climate change, market fluctuations and world consumption trends. These challenges are affecting production, processing and consumption of farm produce, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, digital agricultural development needs to be accelerated.
Dr Nguyễn Đức Tùng, General Secretary of the Việt Nam Digital Agriculture Association, spoke to the Vietnam News Agency about this issue.
Many experts are still wondering about how to start the implementation of digital transformation in the economy and especially in the agriculture sector. What do you think about this?
Implementation of digital transformation in the whole economy as well as the agriculture sector needs to begin with changes in mindset. It is necessary to set a goal on mechanising agriculture because if there is not machinery and equipment to support producers, they will face difficulties in optimising labour productivity and apply technology. Besides that, it is necessary to have suitable policies to fulfill the goal of digital transformation in agriculture.
Human resources is also one of the key issues because we need qualified labours for the business community that are able to apply technology and mechanisation in agriculture and trained farmers which are the main labour force in agricultural production.
The agriculture sector needs suitable technology with geographical location, soil and other natural conditions. In addition, it needs to predict risks and demands of the market, if not it will be difficult to achieve the goal of digital transformation.
Difficulties in synchronisation of data are slowing down the digital transformation process in agriculture. Could you elaborate more about this issue?
In the process of digital transformation, the first thing is to perfect databases used in making policies, planning and strategies. The data now is fragmented between State agencies, businesses and even farmers, causing difficulties in synchronisation.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Việt Nam Digital Agriculture Association have solutions to this problem. We have created groups of commodities such as the group of high-value commodities, including rice and coffee, to build the database first.
I think with the direction of the Government and the ministry's digitisation plan, the data synchronisation will not be the bottleneck slowing down the digitisation process.
What other difficulties are hindering the application of information technology (IT) in the production and consumption of agricultural products?
One more factor is the location of the production region. For example, the north of Việt Nam has small production scale so it is difficult to organise industrial-scale production.
In addition, the agricultural sector has seen a fast ageing population because young people in rural areas often look for work in cities and industrial zones.
Now, there is a lack of attractive policies for young workers, who are often tech-savvy persons, to return to agriculture. If young people are away from agriculture, this sector will find it difficult to achieve the set goal of digital transformation.
To gain success in digital transformation, it must start with farmers, not just businesses or State management agencies. What do you propose to have a generation of digital farmers?
At present, the Việt Nam Digital Agriculture Association has coordinated with Hà Nội National University, Việt Nam Agricultural Academy and HCM City University of Technology to have training courses relating to digital transformation for farmers. However, the support is only in adjustments of existing training programmes but not building new programmes.
I hope that there will be more really attractive policies. For example, MARD can cooperate with corporations to provide scholarships for students studying agriculture.
That will help attract qualified students to work in this industry in the future. If this can be done, Việt Nam will have a qualified labour force in the agriculture sector within the next 5-10 years to promote the application of technology in agricultural production.
Besides human resources, do you have any other suggestions to accelerate the digital transformation of the agricultural sector?
I think capital is also one of the key issues. Enterprises and management agencies must set up goals of technology development, thereby predicting financial demand.
At present, there are many attractive policies, but there are obstacles in implementing those policies. For example, enterprises can invest 10 per cent of their revenue in innovation, but the definition of innovation is still not clear under existing regulations, making it difficult for the businesses to arrange capital.
Therefore, the State should let the businesses be proactive in arranging capital. That will help them have financial resources for technology investment. Meanwhile, the State would offer other supportive policies for them.
In addition, the agriculture industry development planning needs to be reviewed and changed because there are many overlapping policies, causing difficulties for the enterprises in agricultural investment.
The agricultural sector also needs to announce its detailed development plan. At the same time, it needs to be more proactive about human resources in the future. VNS