Innovations like the ‘net house’ offer farmers a way to greater prosperity
January 2017—Fish farmer turned entrepreneur, Gibran Huzaifah, 26, strives every day to transform the aquaculture sector with the power of technology. Huzaifah developed a “smart” fish feeder that can detect when fish are hungry and automatically dispenses feed accordingly. Feed represents approximately 80 percent of fish production costs, and Huzaifah says his fish feeder can reduce feed usage by up to 20 percent.
“We believe that technology can be and should be the solution,” said Huzaifah, CEO of eFishery, an Indonesia-based company. “We are giving value to the fish farmers and [can change] the livelihoods of millions of people.”
The world will need 75 million to 85 million more tons of fish for human consumption by 2030—an increase that cannot come from the oceans.
Huzaifah was one of the many talented entrepreneurs who attended the Asia Regional Agricultural Innovation Summit in Bangkok in May 2016. Social entrepreneurs, input suppliers, government officials and food security experts from across the region gathered at the USAID-supported summit to identify and prioritize common constraints faced by smallholder farmers and explore how technology innovation can help overcome these challenges. More than 70 organizations from 15 countries participated.
Hur Thinearng, marketing manager of Angkor Green Investment and Development Cambodia, learned of a new technology—pest-exclusion nets, or “net houses”—at the summit.
“After attending the summit in Thailand, we are interested in the net house, which we think is applicable to agriculture in Cambodia,” he said. “The net house could help us protect our crops from pests and is a safer and more cost-effective alternative to pesticides.”
When Thinearng returned home, he bought pest-exclusion nets from Thai Charoen Thong Karntor, a Thai company that presented at the summit, to supply to farmers in Cambodia.
Other speakers included agriculture experts from USAID, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (link is external), other international organizations and research institutes, and entrepreneurs who introduced technologies such as low-cost sensors, post-harvest drying techniques, and alternative aquaculture feed to the audience.
The summit marked a promising start toward making innovative technologies available to smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods and achieve food security. Embodying this kickoff, the summit launched the Tech4Farmers Innovation Challenge (link is external) to identify and award the most promising agricultural technologies in the region. This challenge activity will help expand proven, commercially viable technologies into new markets in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal.
Over 66 percent of the world’s food insecure and 62 percent of those in extreme poverty live in Asia. A majority of people in these countries—as high as 80 percent in Nepal and Cambodia—rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
The challenge and summit are elements of USAID’s Asia Innovative Farmers activity, which runs from 2015 to 2020 and is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. Under Feed the Future, USAID promotes more sustainable and efficient practices in horticulture and aquaculture systems in South and Southeast Asia, where horticulture and fish products are significant sources of food and income. Asia produces 90 percent of the world’s aquaculture, 80 percent of which is produced on smallholder farms.
USAID works with businesses, farmer groups, governments, research institutions and NGOs to transfer the technologies by commercial pathways for increased sustainability. In addition, the activity focuses on youth as the future of farming, and on women as an often overlooked and critical group for improving farm technology. Because Asia is prone to climate shocks, resilience to climate change is also a cross-cutting area of focus.