Accelerating Sri Lankan agriculture and enhancing crop quality through affordable protected and automated agriculture kits, Saru, is a project by Dialog Axiata PLC conducted in collaboration with University of Moratuwa and University of Ruhuna.
Smallholder agriculture dominates rural Sri Lanka, home to 80% of the population. Agriculture employs 33% of the workforce and utilizes 44% of the land, yet contributes only 9% to GDP. Being unable to invest qualitatively or quantitatively in improving their production, low income smallholders find it complex to adapt to unfamiliar new technologies ultimately yielding low productivity and low returns. Research shows that the Sri Lankan agriculture sector is less efficient when compared with other countries.
Sri Lanka faces a food crisis due to the rapid ageing of the farming population, unattractiveness of the farming career to the youth, conversion of fertile land to non-agricultural uses, water depletion and land degradation, harvest losses due to increasingly adverse climatic phenomena, compounding pest and disease damage, high fluctuations in prices and crop diversification issues. Developed countries face similar issues and, their extensive research and development helps them overcome those challenges while better managing their food security.
One of the more promising solutions is affordable, climate-smart and protects agriculture by liberating smallholders from the tyranny of the weather and seasonal changes. Research shows a potential 50% - 300% yield increase through environment-controlled agriculture. Under the current partnership with the University of Ruhuna, Dialog is building a knowledge base of crop management parameters required for protected agriculture in such conditions as well as conducting field testing to test the data in field conditions. Low cost sensors and actuator nodes are developed through a partnership with University of Moratuwa.
Main project components:
- Developing the knowledge base for local crop recommendations and agro ecological zones
- Develop necessary materials and knowledge for training farmers on new practices
- Developing sensor and actuator kits that are fit-for-need and conditions at one-tenth or below the current market price
- A data and knowledge management system on cloud
- Advisory content for crop managing and maintaining
IoT (Internet of Things) connects sensors and actuators while remotely controlling and monitoring the activities, with a monitoring panel accessible via smart phones. Further, agriculture know-how for regular operation (i.e. fertilizer application, water management, assessing growth and pest and disease identification) will be available at the farmer’s fingertips using mobile technology. Being cloud-connected, real-time roll-outs of rapid updates or interventions to respond to short-term phenomena in agricultural operations will potentially have a national level significance.