South Korean – Smart Farms Initiative
I spent a few days in South Korea last week as I had the privilege to speak at the Australia and Korea Innovation and Collaboration Symposium. Whilst visiting I also had the opportunity to visit The Sejong Creative Village and learnt about the governments Smart Farms initiative.
The South Korean government has setup 17 creative economy villages around South Korea, with the purpose of invigorating regional villages. Over decades of industrialisation, South Korea has successfully become of one the worlds automobile and electronics manufacturing powerhouses. The agriculture sector however, has born the cost of this shift to industrialisation and urbanisation economy. The South Korean agriculture sector has contracted its production by around 40% and new industry adoption has dwindled resulting in an ageing farming community. Lee Dong-Phil, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in South Korea recognised that change was needed and has introduced this new creative economies initiative.
I traveled 40 minutes south from Seoul on a high speed train with Jemma Martin who is the Australian Agricultural councillor based in the South Korean Australian Embassy and together we visited the Sejong region.
The first stop was South Korean (SK) Telecom’s Sejong centre; this centre acts as a regional hub and showcases Smart Farms and creative economy concepts. They also run training and educational services for farmers and people interested in becoming farmers.
Prior to arriving in Sejong, I had a discussion with Jemma as to why SK Telecom was involved in the creative economies initiative. Jemma mentioned that the government need companies such as SK Telecom to deliver these initiatives as they are the experts in the technology. Alongside this, SK Telecom are diversifying their business and are actively interested in moving into the agriculture space.
Jeon Jun-Yeon who is the deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, supported by Hyun Chun Kang, senior manager at the Sejong Centre, delivered a comprehensive presentation about the Sejong Centre of Creative Economy and innovation.
To summarise their detailed presentation, I have broken down the Creative economies imperative into 5 key areas, with a link for further information regarding each area.
1. Solar generation to secure earnings
The initiative has already invested over 300kW solar panels in the Sejong region, with the aim that the savings generated can be redirected into a town development fund to support the rest of the initiatives.
2. Smart learning to improve village welfare
Utilising Smart ICT solutions, SK Telecom have provided each village access to a new platform for education in regional area’s with a specific focus on ICT courses to provide villages an improved understanding of technology. Some examples of the courses offered were basic programming and robot coding.
3. Intelligent Security Cameras
Providing villages with a secure network of CCTV that can allow instant monitoring for trespassing and security.
4. Smart farms
Developing farms utilising Smart ICT solutions to not only improve farming efficiencies by digitising farming, but also creating spaces to teach farming practices and engage the next generation in a more technologically savvy manner.
5. Smart local food
The smart food imperative is designed to give more control to farmers to sell their produce by connecting farmers directly to retail stores using an app. The farmer then delivers produce to the government owned retail store and displays goods on a consignment basis. Each farmer sets the prices of their products and has the ability to market themselves directly to the consumer. Using the Smart Local Food App the farm can see exactly how much produce has been sold.
After the visit to the Sejong centre we visited one Smart Farm and a concept indoor farm:
The picture on the left is a modern Green house setup as a part of the Smart Farms program and on the right is Mr. Pung who is South Korea’s first Smart Farm capsicum grower… Dr. Capsicum!
Above an on-farm learning centre setup at Mr. Pung’s Smart Farm allowing on the job training for students and farmers looking to develop or get involved in the Smart Farms initiative. At the top right of the image are test beds with a local Sejong university running trials on new varieties and methods.
These pictures show a concept testing facility growing Ginseng, the bottom of the structure is a modified shipping container that has been developed as a small scale vertical farm and above is a small greenhouse that is growing experimental crops.
In conclusion the key thing that I took away from my trip to South Korea is that initiatives such as Smart Farms and creative economies are really creating the framework for an economy to consider things like agriculture, that have potentially fallen by the way side over the last 30 years, as a viable and attractive proposition for the country and the economy.
I hope to see similar initiatives in Australia as a part of Malcolm Turnbull’s ideas boom as our economy transitions from mining dominant to a healthy mixed industry economy and hopefully for all the farmers out there agriculture comes out on top.