Promoting Technology in Agriculture
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
If there’s one thing we learnt during the previous year as a nation, it’s the importance of self-sufficiency. When the first wave of COVID-19 hit Sri Lanka, everything froze, causing massive disruptions in not only the economy, but also in the livelihood of many families throughout the country.
Of course, this wasn’t something isolated to Sri Lanka only. The whole world basically shut down in various stages during the past year.
While the economy might have slowed to a snail’s pace, that doesn’t mean that our basic human necessities would slow down too. People needed to eat.
It was all the same for our country as well. However, being a country that relies on imports to fulfil the produce we don’t grow ourselves, Sri Lanka was in a troubling predicament.
Because of the pandemic, supply chains had ground to a complete halt, meaning that importing the food we needed was no longer feasible.
While supply chains are finally adjusting to the new normal, the past year has definitely sparked a discussion on the importance of boosting our country’s agriculture to greater effectiveness.
Sri Lanka has always stuck to its traditional farming methods, with a good reason. Those who farmed this land generations ago stuck a fine balance and performed their agricultural activities in harmony with nature and wildlife.
However, with the ever-increasing population pushing the demand for food higher than ever before, it is time to incorporate modern science and technology into our agricultural system to produce food more efficiently and effectively, not only increasing yields but also making sure to protect our culture of farming while being one with nature, minimising the damage caused by human influence.
Realising the need for boosting Agricultural Technology (Agri-Tech), the Rotaract Club from University of Kelaniya has joined together with EdScale Up to introduce a new platform to encourage innovation in the field of Agri-Tech, with the hopes of providing them a means to make their idea a reality to help push Sri Lanka’s agriculture forward.
Ceylon Today spoke with members of the organising team to learn more.
Agri-Thon: an Agri-Tech hackathon
Joining in on the discussion was Chairman of Rotaract Club of University of Kelaniya, Nipuna Rambukkanage, joined by EdScale Up founder Akeel Ahamed and Project Co-Chair Yadhuravi Ramachandran.
A brainchild of Akeel, the Agri-Thon is the direct result of a goal to promote Agri-Tech within the country.
Operating similar to a hackathon-esque format, the Agri-Thon intends to open itself up for creative thinkers across the country to submit their ideas and compete for a chance to influence the industry.
“Our objective is to provide exposure to those who have talent in Agri-Tech,” shared Akeel. “Through that, we wanted to support Sri Lankan agriculture through innovative solutions.”
Besides accepting applications from local universities and those who are already in the industry, Agri-Thon also hopes to give an opportunity for school-level applicants throughout many provinces to, “Give them a platform to develop their skills and agricultural innovations.”
Applicants can submit their innovations based on various aspects of agriculture such as crop production, animal husbandry and plantation management. “The competition will be open for all innovative approaches,” the three agreed.
Now, if you happen to be one such aspiring innovator and want to participate, we learnt from the Agri- Thon team that registrations will be open for two weeks, starting from 7 January 2021. “All the information and registration can be done online through our website agrithon.racuok.lk for absolutely free,” shared Yadhuravi.
He went on and explained that applicants will have an additional two weeks to submit their proposed ideas before they undergo a series of informatics webinars where they will be coached and mentored to improve on their product.
Of course, throughout this whole process, judges will sift through to choose the best and most innovative ideas among the applicants until a final winner is chosen in the end.
However, those who may not have won the final prize still have the chance of making their innovation a feasible product since the organisers are enthusiastic in providing opportunity for innovative thinkers to make it an impact.
Behind the scenes
Needless to say, putting together such an ambitious project isn’t easy, especially since this agriculture-based hackathon will be the first of its kind. However, while speaking with the trio it was evident that their main concern was to ensure that the message is spread in order to provide the opportunity for those creative thinkers who might not have a platform to showcase their talent and expertise otherwise.
This is not the end
While 2021’s Agri-Thon has only begun, Nipuna, Akeel, and Yadhuravi all three agree that this is only the beginning. “We want to continue this project into the future as well,” they shared. “We plan to continue building up on what we have started and we’re always open to welcoming new partners to make this effort a better success.”