HANOI -- Information technology companies in this country are launching agriculture support services to help farmers increase their crop yields by streamlining and modernizing the country's old-fashioned farming methods.
Of Vietnam's population of some 90 million, 68% were farmers as of 2013. In 2014, the value of the country's agricultural production reached 617 trillion dong ($28.8 billion), up 2.9% on the year.
The Vietnamese government this year plans to review its master plan for promoting agriculture and is believed to include the modernization of agriculture and fisheries as a major issue.
Japanese companies are also entering the Southeast Asian nation's agriculture industry. In December 2014, agricultural equipment maker Yanmar set up a local subsidiary in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese IT leader FPT is teaming up with Japanese technology company Fujitsu to develop greenhouse cultivation that takes advantage of data and sensors.
The company will build an experimental greenhouse in Hanoi in April to find out efficient conditions for cultivation by measuring temperatures and humidity inside the greenhouse as well as hours of sunlight and referring to data collected in other areas.
In Japan, Fujitsu in 2012 introduced the Akisai cloud-based farming system, which enabled some farmers to more than double their crop yields.
FPT will continue the experiment for one year and begin offering the service to farmers as early as 2016. The service will include sensors, a local area network, data and maintenance.
The LAN allows farmers to operate multiple greenhouses remotely. This will help nurture large-scale farmers in Vietnam, of which are currently only a few.
Viettel, a telecom company affiliated with Vietnam's defense ministry, has introduced "Agri.One," a fee-based information service for farmers. Users of the service register for a short messaging service, which allows them to receive regular reports on pests, weather, agricultural production technologies, fertilizers, pesticides and market prices of produce.
The company currently provides information in 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta region, including Long An and Can Tho, but will newly add 11 provinces within the year.
The service costs 500 dong per day. Though Viettel does not disclose how many customers it has, it says more and more people are using the service because of its reasonable price.
Viettel is also accumulating information provided by farmers in its database to boost its ability to provide useful information to its customers.
Major IT company Hanoi Electronics, or Hanel, is reportedly considering selling agricultural products online and automating cultivation.
The key to the spread of IT-based agriculture in Vietnam will be the balance between IT investment and prices of farm products, because the country produces only a few agricultural products that can fetch premium prices, such as premium fruits.