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Green energy and smart technology to usher forth a 'Golden Decade' of agricultural development


As part of President Ma Ying-jeou's Golden Decade National Vision blueprint, the Council of Agriculture (COA) held an academic forum on Aug. 9 to discuss methods of "harnessing green energy to create a new agricultural era founded on the concepts of efficiency and conservation." Titled "Future Trends in Agriculture and Biotechnology," the forum proved to be a valuable cross-regional platform on scientific exchanges in regards to research and development in green energy and smart technology.

According to the Council, the academic forum presided by COA Minister Chen Bao-ji was attended by over a hundred academic researchers and industry representatives. The organizers invited several foreign experts to present their works at the event, including Goto Hideshi, a professor at the Japan-based Chiba University's Graduate School of Horticulture who flew to Taiwan to share the recent advancements made by Japanese scientists in industrial farming and agricultural design. Other notable speakers were Taiwanese scientists such as Sheh Sheng-chih, an associate professor at the National Cheng Kung University's Department of Systems and Naval Mechatronic Engineering, and Su Zhong-zhen, an associate professor at the National Taiwan University's Department of Animal Science and Technology. Their presentations provided great insight into Taiwan's latest breakthroughs in energy conservation and agronomic modernization, the COA noted.

Indoor farming, colloquially known as "plant factories," uses carefully moderated light, temperature and moisture control to cultivate vegetation on an industrial scale. There are three types of approaches to indoor farming, namely the natural sunlight model, the artificial illumination model and the natural-artificial hybrid model, the COA explained. Aside from being insulated from climate-related disasters and meteorological conditions, "plant factories" require minimal amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce healthy plants, making these high-tech greenhouses the perfect eco-friendly solution for mass agricultural production. As a pioneer of energy-conserving technology, Japan has applied considerable resources into developing "plant factories," according to Chiba University's Professor Goto, who delineated many indoor planting styles and greenhouse designs at the Taipei forum. When it comes to branching out, however, Taiwanese researchers are the first to apply the concept of energy conservation to the fishery sector. One prominent example was revealed by National Cheng Kung University's Sheh, who led a student research team in developing an energy-efficient fishing light attractor using light-emitting diode (LED) materials. The high-performance LED fishing aid, which requires little battery life and produces close to zero pollutants, is a prime example of how the nation's traditional sectors can increase their productivity by adapting to new technologies. National Taiwan University's Su and his fellow zoologists were equally impressive with their recent discoveries in recovering energy from animal waste. By a process known as biogas upgrade, the animal scientists were able to harvest residue methane and carbon dioxide from livestock and husbandry establishments and convert their gaseous crops to fuel, effectively lowering noisome output and reducing carbon emissions.

The COA pointed out that such exchanges can help establish closer ties between Japanese and Taiwanese researchers, foster further technical collaboration on carbon-reduction schemes and promote the concept of environmental sustainability. The Council concluded that agriculture and green energy go hand-in-hand, as evident in the island's steady growth through added-value agricultural products and entrepreneurial opportunities, and that it remains committed to creating a "healthy, efficient and sustainable" future for Taiwan.